Imagine a technique that begins with one simple movement and transforms every muscle in your entire body... a technique so easy you can learn it yourself.. .and so amazingly effective that your whole life may change for the better.

"The Alexander Technique
Nobel Prize-winner Nikolaas Tinbergen hailed the discovery of the. technique. With "growing amazement" he and his family noted "very striking improvements" in high blood pressure, depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness and mental alertness. Tinbergen concluded that the technique may often produce "profound and beneficial effects" to help: relieve rheumatism, various forms of arthritis and respiratory ailments • remedy circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure • alleviate many digestive disorders • reduce sexual failures, migraines and depression. Now you can learn the secrets of this unique, effortless technique and begin to realize your full physical and mental potential, starting today.

"Like opening a door into another world..."
One of our foremost teachers and practitioners of the Alexander Technique, Sarah Barker, has taught this amazingly effective method of mobilizing total energy in colleges across the country. From her own experience she has found that "the mere performance of this simple movement can, if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity, put you on the road to a new life of health, physical freedom and, in the deepest sense, personal happiness." Try the technique yourself for a few weeks with her simple, everyday routines and see what wonders it can do for you.

THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The Revolutionary Way To Use Your Body For Total Energy by Sarah Barker BANTAM BOOKS TORONTO • NEW YORK • LONDON • SYDNEY .

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 . Inc. ISBN 0-553-14976-8 Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books.S. consisting of the words "Bantam Books" and the portrayal of a bantam. Copyright © 1978 by Bantam Books. Bantam Books. 666 Fifth Avenue. Inc.For Marj THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: THE REVOLUTIONARY WAY TO USE YOUR BODY FOR TOTAL ENERGY 2nd printing A Bantam Book /August 1978 April 1979 3rd printing February 1981 Photographs courtesy of Susan and Reed ErskinelLightworks All rights reserved. Marca Registrada. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.. New York 10103. Its trademark. Inc. New York. For information address: Bantam Books. without permission. is Registered in U. Inc. by mimeograph or any other means.

Contents Acknowledgments PART I LEARNING ABOUT THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: The Important Benefits It Offers You THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The What and the Why Scientific Acclaim Feeling at Your Best Age Is No Barrier If You Are Overweight Your Rampant Emotions Living Without Stress Being Who You Are Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases A Simple Method ix l 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 6 6 8 Chapter 1 Chapter 2 HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED The Australian Story Crisis on Stage The Patient Scientist A Unique Mission The Search and the Answer Outwitting Our Destructive Habits Those Puritanical Hang-Ups 10 10 11 12 13 13 15 15 V .

Chapter3 BRINGING THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE What Is Good Use? You Are Not a Statue No Positions. Whole Person Staying in the Moment vi CONTENTS . No Poses How to Look at Pictures The Breath of Life Let It Happen Your Breathing Improves How We Got This Way Three Easy Tests See For Yourself The Road to Take THE BASIC MOVEMENT Not an Exercise How to Start THE BASIC MOVEMENT Exploring Yourself The Basic Movement Your Whole Head Your Whole Body The Upward Direction On Your Way The Instant Train How to Succeed Without Really Trying 17 18 19 20 20 20 21 21 22 23 23 24 25 25 26 26 26 27 27 32 32 32 34 35 37 37 38 39 39 41 41 42 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 BECOME A WHOLE PERSON The Trouble with Physical Exercise The Trance in Which We Live Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves The Crown of the Senses Discover a World Within Part Person vs.

No Leotards A Way to Begin For Your Enjoyment Nine Rules to Follow 43 44 44 45 46 47 49 49 PART II 51 52 52 52 53 54 54 56 56 56 57 58 58 59 61 61 61 62 63 65 66 CONTENTS vii Action 1 LEANING FORWARD A N D BACKWARD Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Eating Soup How to Get Out of a Slump The Way You Talk MOVING ARMS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Brushing Your Teeth Opening a Door With Children Action 2 .Chapter 6 THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG Why We Shrink The Upright Creature Must We Fall Apart? How We Conquer It Goes by Itself Never a Feeling of Strain A Future Without Fear THE PRACTICE OF THE TECHNIQUE How to Do It THE SEVEN ACTIONS An Effortless Program No Dumb-Bells.

Action 3 WALKING WITH EASE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Jogging and Running Playing Golf MOVING LEGS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Walking Up and Down Stairs HEEL A N D TOE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life KNEE-BENDING Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life STANDING UP A N D SITTING D O W N Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE A Time For Rest Rotating Your Head Moving Your Arms Moving Your Legs Rolling onto Your Side Sitting Up 68 68 68 72 72 73 76 76 76 80 80 82 82 82 84 86 86 86 88 90 90 90 96 97 97 100 100 102 103 103 Action 4 Action 5 Action 6 Action 7 viii CONTENTS .

Panic 104 106 SOME HELPFUL HINTS The Worrier The Straining Housewife The Thinker The Scientist The Manipulator The Under-Achiever The Step-by-Stepper The Freezer The Over-Achiever The Practicer The Posture-Maker The Weight-Watcher 107 107 108 109 109 109 109 110 110 111 111 112 112 CONTENTS ix .Restful Slumber Emotional ControlWorry. Anger.

Then I remembered that its originator. I thought long and hard: The idea of learning the Technique from a book seemed revolutionary and possibly heretical. who supported me with their probing questions. and thanks are also due to a number of close friends. I am also indebted to several distinguished scholars in the field. even lacking his genius. Alexander. for his remarkable speech accepting the 1973 Nobel Prize in Medicine. When I began the necessary exploring and investigation. and whose individual help in some cases was indispensable to me. upon whose work I have drawn freely. had on his own discovered how to control the use of his body. could learn how. I am grateful to Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. Surely. benefited from the teaching experiments I conducted in the preparation of this book. I received the help of innumerable people to whom I am most grateful. especially those who patiently suffered and. which places the Alexander Technique in a modern scixi . and all my students.Acknowledgments Before undertaking to write a "how to" book on the Alexander Technique. Special acknowledgment is due my colleagues and associates at Rancho Linda Vista in Arizona. hopefully. graciously and expertly collaborated with me in demonstrating for the photographs that illustrate this book. F M. My colleague. who were always available for the encouragement and energy needed to carry on. I would like to thank the various Alexander teachers with whom I have studied and spent long hours in discussion. the rest of us. if given a set of sure guidelines. of Oxford University. Peter Trimmer.

Wilfred Barlow for his informative accounts of the medical use of the Technique in treating patients. In a couple of spots. an indispensable selection of Alexanders writings.entific perspective. I have. Research Associate at the Tufts Institute for Psychological Research. to the late Dr. The project is entirely my own. Matthias Alexander. for the insights in his Anatomist's Tribute to F. whose study introducing The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). to Edward Maisel. Frank Pierce Jones. South Africa. closely paraphrased a few passages from that study. Of course. with Maisel's generous permission. the greatest debt of all is to Alexander himself. to Dr. Sarah Barker xii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . who laid down the guidelines for those of us who have followed him. Dart. whose studies of the Alexander Technique have accomplished much for the scientific understanding of this work. This book is not intended to reflect the views of any of the considerable number of people who helped me. has contributed so greatly to public appreciation of the Alexander Technique. Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Dean Emeritus of the Medical Faculty of the University of Witwatersrand. to Professor Raymond A.

PART 1 Learning About the Alexander Technique The Important Benefits It Offers You .

At the Tufts Institute for Experimental Psychology. Matthias Alexander. F. named for its discoverer. There has also accumulated an impressive volume of clinical data. and known around the world as one of the most extraordinary discoveries of our time. Scientific Acclaim It would surprise many people to realize what the Alexander Technique can do for them were its astonishing'results not supported by the most respectable scientific authority. reports by physicians attesting to its remarkable effectiveness in helping many of their patients. a technique so amazing in its results that your physical and emotional life will soon change for the better. 2 . his students and followers conducted a considerable amount of research to substantiate his findings. During the years before and after Alexander's death in 1955. That technique is the Alexander Technique. like the opening of a door into another world. twenty-five years of investigation—using quantitative measure and control groups—have thrown important light on the manner in which the Alexander Technique produces its seemingly miraculous effects. so simple that you can learn it yourself.Chapter 1 The Alexander Technique: The What and the Why Imagine a technique for transforming the operation of your body.

computerized or laser-beamed—that functions with such infinite resilience or so many delicate capacities as the human body. you're wrong. humanity's chance to survive may depend upon how men and women salvage themselves. Ours is an era where people have begun to value their bodies as unique and wonderful. as normal. more than ever. and that today. this factor may prove more critical than our ability to manipulate the environment further.Feeling at Your Best Apart from suffering any specific medical symptoms. an exuberant and vital sense of wellness: physical freedom and ease combined with mental flexibility and alertness. It's never too late. took up the Alexander Technique at the age of fifty-eight. We have learned that there is no mechanical device in the world—electronic. Just as we have thoughtlessly depleted the natural resources of the planet. We scarcely begin to realize our enormous potential. the Alexander Technique proposes. most of us plod through our days and nights in a condition far below optimum. one of the founding fathers of scientific philosophy and modern education. full THE WHAT AND THE WHY 3 . Many of us know now that through ignorance and insensibility we unnecessarily limit ourselves in how we function. so too are we daily abusing the most valuable resource of all—our bodies—and depleting our own energies. you can begin to make a beneficial and healthy change. Even after forty or fifty years of continually misusing yourself. Age Is No Barrier If you think you're too old to begin learning anything so revolutionary." Good health is regarded as merely the absence of sickness. He thereupon underwent an extraordinary rejuvenation and lived another thirty-five rich. John Dewey. Indeed. We "manage". we "get by. Against this keep-your-nose-above-water-level definition of being alive.

finding his physical and mental energies too drained by social contact. And we have information about calisthenics.years. and he was beset by a terrible 4 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . What many authorities therefore find most impressive about the Alexander Technique is embodied in Aldous Huxley's statement that "If you teach an individual to be aware of his physical organism and then to use it as it was meant to be used. The famous writer had spent all his days in a state of acute physical illness until he studied the Alexander Technique and transformed himself. prejudices and fixed habits. diets and the dangers of eating too much." Huxley might have given his own story as a case in point. If You Are Overweight You can even streamline your physical appearance by means of the Alexander Technique. and it is hardly news that human development in general is retarded by fear reflexes unduly excited by emotions. We have sufficient data on calories. whatever it may be? Why is it that two people of identical poundage and the same general build often have quite different looking torsos. What about the way we wear our weight. The ninety-two-year-old Dewey attributed this vital longevity to his Alexander practice. one possessing a true waist and chest. exercise and strenuous exertion. He had begun to withdraw from people. you can often change his entire attitude to life and cure his neurotic tendencies. Your Rampant Emotions All of us are subject to "states" of various kinds. But little or nothing is ever mentioned about another important factor. which determines success in attaining a beautifully proportionate body. Something crucial is missing from our national quest for a more attractive physique. the other a nondescript but thickening bulge? A beneficial side effect of the Alexander Technique is a better carriage of the body's weight. George Bernard Shaw learned the Technique at eighty and lived to ninety-four.

Jones observed in his own experience "an almost immediate increase in mental and emotional control. but it was the Alexander Technique that opened up a new way to live. We also discover how much more we like other people when we have a more relaxed feeling about ourselves. observed that while the physical effects of the Technique are indeed remarkable. Next time you're angry. Living Without Stress We can see how this works easily enough. the foremost scientific investigator among Alexander scholars. reported in other therapies as well. may of course be explained as the happy side effects of any betterment in physical condition. yoga and other remedies in vain. "the psychological effects are of greater importance." Some of these. He had tried gardening." This is because the Alexander Technique gives a workable approach in attacking emotional problems directly. notice whether you clench your hands slightly or perhaps a great deal. There is likewise an improvement in our self-image when we feel more competent physically. panic. We tend to be less depressed when we are not physically burdened. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 5 . worry. anger.depression and a chronic insomnia that made it almost impossible to work. for a change in mental attitude often accompanies an increase in health. he noted. These are all surface reactions we can observe. Underneath are the unconscious tension states that can build into attitudes which interfere in our relationships with other people. you may find yourself making fidgety movements. Or if you're anxious about something. and we are no longer simply at the mercy of confusion. But quite apart from these desirable side effects. Can the Technique really help with our mental and emotional problems? Professor Frank Pierce Jones. When angry. you may also hunch your shoulders and fix your chest rigidly.

by means of the Alexander Technique. Instead. you may even find that you no longer experience any disquiet—except perhaps to wonder where your rage or panic went. hoping for some kind of emotional relief. Thus freed. He related how his interest in it 6 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. you are able to experience emotions fully in a few moments and begin thinking clearly again. Being Who You Are The Alexander Technique has particular value for people who don't want to fill themselves with drugs. devoted half his acceptance speech to the Technique. countering their depressions and anxieties with a whole arsenal of tranquilizers. they are offered a release from the confines of habit so that they have some choice in their lives and become capable of acting more freely in whatever they do. or to shop from therapy to therapy. If they turn to the Technique. because you are no longer reinforcing them with body tension. Once you break this cycle of reinforcing feeling with body tension. there is no magic formula that will instantly solve their problems.When you release those clenched fists. Millions of people exist in this half-alive state. and moving hopefully from one fad to another. This new conscious control of yourself does not prevent you from feeling any emotional states—life would be rather stiff and boring if it did—but you will be able to allow for more appropriate and spontaneous responses to the events of your life if you are not locked into one fearful or angry response for all occasions. upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine. In 1973. or prevent the fidgeting. you may find your feelings much more within your control. Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases Many people would find it hard to believe the seemingly fantastic medical cures attributed to the Alexander Technique except that these extraordinary reports come from reputable physicians and scientists.

no neurological disorders and no severe mental disorder. As their body musculature began to function differently. Barlow called this statistic "almost unbelievable" and concluded that 99 percent of the population need the Technique. Tinbergen concluded that while the Technique is assuredly no cure-all to be applied in every case. signed by nineteen doctors. and also in such a refined skill as playing a stringed instrument. including various forms of arthritis. "there can be no doubt that it often does have profound and beneficial effects.was excited by a little experiment he had tried with his own family. The British Medical Journal once published a letter. respiratory ailments. no strokes. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 7 . Dr. might be helped by the Alexander Technique. endorsing the Technique for its remarkable effectiveness in the treatment of many of their patients." Tinbergen went on to affirm the possibility that certain other stress-related ailments could benefit from the Technique: rheumatism. migraines and depressive states that often lead to suicide. breathing. resilience against outside pressure. and reported that in this group there were no coronaries. even asthma. no ulcers. his wife and one of their daughters had learned the Technique at the same time. both in the mental and somatic sphere." A physician. Wilfred Barlow. no such evaluation has thus far been carried out. sexual failures. for example. circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure and heart conditions.He. They noted. no discs. no rheumatoid arthritis. they observed "with growing amazement" the marvelous results. no cancers. gastrointestinal disorders of many types. and I repeat once more. he suggested. which is a point that must be emphasized. conducted a survey of men and women who had long used the Alexander Technique. All these as well as other non-bug diseases. that the Technique brought about "very striking improvements in such diverse things as high blood pressure. Unfortunately. depth of sleep. and called upon their profession to recognize and evaluate it. overall cheerfulness and mental alertness.

like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. or complicated by. Whether seated in a theater or standing waiting for a bus. A Simple Method People from all walks of life benefit from the Alexander Technique. actors—are making it an important part of their training program. New York and elsewhere find it accepted as a valuable resource in physiotherapy. dancers." In Part I. you may readily apply it. It offers a key for orienting yourself in all that you do. the Alexander principle has been encapsulated in one very simple action called the Basic Movement (Chapter 4). "Since the Alexander Technique is nothing more than the application of experimental method to problems of everyday behavior. In the words of Professor Frank Jones. Patients in medical institutes in London. . no thorough-going scientific investigation has been conducted into any of the medical claims that have been made for the Technique.Although there has accumulated an impressive volume of personal testimony. This book will introduce you to the Alexander process of thinking and moving. Highfashion magazines. A word of caution is therefore in order. the continual wear you place upon yourself through bad muscular habits—only your own physician can advise you if the Alexander Technique is likely to help. there is no reason to delay the undertaking if a teacher is not available. It presents a simple method for learning the Technique by yourself. Those that have a professional interest in their bodies—musicians. Part II presents a systematic program of seven easy Actions that shows you how to expand the Basic Movement as the basis for improving the quality of all the activities of 8 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . have informed their readers of what the Technique will do for bodies that display expensive clothes. It provides a compass for navigating in whatever physical or mental perplexities you may find yourself. If you have any ailment or illness—even one due to.

and the Technique that derives from it. we need to learn more about Alexander himself and how he made his great discovery. shown by a man without medical training. "This story of perceptiveness.your everyday life. These Actions will facilitate this because they are invariably involved in almost everything you do." THE WHAT AND THE WHY 9 ." said Professor Tinbergen in his Nobel speech. of intelligence and of persistence. "is one of the true epics of medical research and practice. To understand the Alexander principle. however.

an unusual woman who was close to the child during his formative 10 . just waiting for the great person who discovered it. At first glance. And upon closer inspection. But there are other turning points. This is certainly true of the way the Alexander Technique was discovered. In this way. are said to have hit upon the powerful mathematical tool of calculus at about the same moment in history. He was born in 1869 on the island of Tasmania in a small town named Wynyard. no less significant for the welfare of the human race. that have been reached in total isolation from any ongoing tradition of study and research. acting independently of one another. the new proposition put forth appears to have sprung full-blown from the brain of its originator. Not much is known about his father except that he was poor and hard-working. The Australian Story Frederick Matthias Alexander came from a remote outpost of the Australian bush country. Newton and Leibniz. Whatever influence he may have had on his son was far overshadowed by the boy's mother.Chapter 2 How the Technique was Discovered Many a major innovation in the history of science appears to have been lying there. we can see that it does indeed owe almost everything to the peculiar genius of that individual and to the special circumstances of his or her particular life.

tutored but not formally taught. By the time he was nineteen. recitalist or both. Thus. Sometimes during recitals his voice failed him completely—disturbing enough for any actor! Doctors could HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 11 . After the mining came a succession of other uncongenial positions. his schoolmaster. Alexander was already considered an accomplished reciter of Shakespeare. she had been known to saddle her horse and leap it over the paddock gate so as not to lose time fooling with the latch. Alexander won prizes and passed examinations with ease. which was all the formal education the youngster received. she combined two of her talents. Crisis on Stage He could have become the teacher his tutor wanted him to be. and sometimes in response to urgent calls.years. Alexander was different from other children. From the beginning. riding and midwifery (which included nursing and other medical services) to help her neighbors. however. In Melbourne. He seemed to have an innate distrust of accepted routine and conventional wisdom. he decided to cast his lot with the theater as actor. when he began at six to practice the kind of recitations so popular in that day. finally. In this wild and remote part of the world. He worked under a handicap. He would have liked to go on the stage. refusing to accept anything on blind faith. Fortunately. He persuaded Alexander's father to let him tutor the boy in the evenings. and it was this disability which proved to be the determining factor in his life. a Scot who had emigrated to Australia in an effort to repair his health. for the theater had been his love since early childhood. trying to recoup his small fortune with odd jobs. Local doctors often called on her. but family poverty demanded that the eldest son go out to work. and away from the mining company could consider himself legitimately to be a professional actor. giving his recitals on numerous smalltown stages. so he took a job with the local tin mining company. saw that his difficult pupil was something more than the usual rebellious student.

halfway through an important engagement during the 1888 season. becoming fascinated with the whole question of what happens to the body not only in speech. Meanwhile. This close scrutiny continued for nearly ten years. This was something he did. he began with that slight pulling backward and down of his head. using mirrors while he declaimed as an aid to observation. not only during his stage appearances. quite apart from speaking. but also during any physical activity. It was only more noticeable in formal recitation because there it produced a depression of the larynx and an audible sucking in of his breath that could.give him no more than temporary relief. Once aware of it. the condition gradually worsened until he finally had to refuse engagements if he thought he might be incapable of getting through the performance. Alexander began to examine closely how he used himself physically when he was on stage—keeping his eyes open and observing. from the most trivial to the most strenuous. The Patient Scientist That was the turning point. in fact. part of a whole body pattern that also included lifting his chest and hollowing his back. 12 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . he came upon the characteristic that was blocking his own activity. but also when speaking normally in ordinary conversation. Instead. There were to be no more doctors. he could see the same pattern at work as involuntary preparation in whatever else he undertook. Alexander devoted himself to finding out what made him lose his voice. with attention. This pattern of unconscious activity constituted the preliminary to every recitation he gave. He discovered that every movement he made was accompanied by a slight tendency to pull his head backward and down. In everyday physical acts. he lost his voice and left the stage in near despair. which is fundamental to the spirit of all scientific inquiry. In time. At first. One night. Changing the poise of his head by pulling it backward and down was. Soon he began to go beyond his immediate problem.

writers. athletes and celebrities of all kinds sought him out. finally abandoning the stage to carve a unique career as a teacher of the Alexander seen and heard. and a valuable compilation of his essential writings may be found in The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). Alexander resumed his theatrical career. all his other activities were likewise initiated in the same self-stultifying manner. his teachings spread to Denmark. He continued this mission until his death at the age of eighty-six. Switzerland. on a different scale. theater people. A Unique Mission Since these patterns of bad use were triggered by an unconscious reflex of pulling the head backward and down. mental and emotional well-being of people everywhere. Italy. South Africa and other countries of the world. France. movie stars. the obvious solution was to substitute for this negative action (with all the consequences it initiated) the conscious constructive movement of the head and body upward. after he-had completely corrected the long-standing vocal disability that drove him from the stage. New Zealand. in everything else he did. and during his lifetime he worked both in England and America. Australia. Through his students. He also produced several books. industrialists. Thus. no matter what business or occupation. Israel. But not for long. He observed similar consequences. For as he pondered the far-reaching consequences of his startling discovery for the physical. The Search and the Answer We can come closer to understanding the nature of the discovery that underlies all we are going to learn in this book if we now outline it in the terms suggested at the outset of this chapter: a special kind of person makes an important HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 13 . diplomats. he withdrew more and more from acting. Statesmen.

Alexander has found the key. but he does prescribe a medicine that might just do the trick. where we find the young Alexander confronted with a problem of survival. only to have his voice fail completely halfway through an especially important engagement. Alexander chooses the latter. and his only stumbling block is the occasional but very annoying tendency of his voice to give out during recitals. No use in seeing more and more doctors.finding through the circumstances of his or her particular life and in isolation from any tradition of scientific thought on the subject. Alexander resumes his profession with renewed confidence. Thus armed. it takes almost ten years of searching through more minute movements before the secret reveals itself. a remedy 14 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . at last. results are frustratingly slow in coming. The scene is Australia during the 1880s. His great love for the theater had caused him to gravitate through a series of unchallenging occupations before attaining. This leaves him with the ugly choice between (1) leaving the theater altogether or (2) applying himself tirelessly to discovering the cause of the problem. Being a far from submissive personality. for he realizes that the physicians of his day know even less about his condition than he does. a career on the stage. Through years of carefully watching his every motion in an elaborate system of mirrors. he is an actor specializing in the recital of long passages from the works of classic playwrights. and it precedes all efforts at vocal articulation. At the age of nineteen. That secret is a small but perceptible contraction of the muscles at the back of his neck. It turns out that the doctor cannot find the cause. he devotes the rest of his time to a painstaking and meticulous observation of the only clue he has—himself. In fact. While carefully limiting his theatrical obligations. His career seems assured—his reputation is growing steadily. he is forced to see a doctor about the problem. Eventually.

high blood pressure and chronic joint and muscle pains. and from his later teaching experience. He must release that contraction with movement of his head upward. Outwitting Our Destructive Habits Basically. It can lead to round-the-clock tension in some muscles. With every act. we can consciously move our head upward. They form an inseparable whole. In order to revise things of which we are not aware. the action that most often precedes wasteful or harmful responses is a contraction which pulls the head slightly backward and down. interferes with the smooth operation of the muscular and nervous systems and all the vital organs. was this: mind and body are inextricably bound together. reducing lung capacity and projecting the stomach unpleasingly forward. the customs of language entrap us much HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 15 . repeated hundreds of times a day over a span of many years. we need a new approach—one that can bring subconscious sensations forward into the conscious mind. The person is one psychophysical organism.will follow. To eliminate the problem at its source. We are not split into body and mind. And doing this means using the conscious mind to change our subconscious muscle patterns. this destructive series can compress the body's trunk. And this is only one destructive habit. which. we need to prevent the neck from contracting unnecessarily. The effect of this is a compression of the spine. Unfortunately. the first of a whole series that will follow if the first occurs unchallenged. which can cause loss of voice. Those Puritanical Hang-Ups A major conclusion that emerged from Alexander's study and observation. Taken together. thus squeezing the delicate organs that reside there. body following it.

we may even persist in believing that the physical business of daily existence is unimportant or at least unworthy of our serious attention. Whenever we divide ourselves in two like this. the garbage is not carried out. into a mental part and a physical part." We have something to blame. . quoting the ancient Greeks. The leaves go unraked. .of the time into thinking so. the clutter of papers on the desk remains untidy." Or "my thoughts keep wandering. Disdain for the mere "physical." we glibly say." thus mistakenly conceived. at the same time visualizing a something mental that is embedded in a something fleshly. Often. Instead. can manifest itself in any of a thousand different ways that upset or swamp us. With disastrous consequences for our daily life. personal grooming is neglected or forgotten . "A sound mind in a sound body. we could be finding out what we are doing that keeps us from solving our problems. the kitchen mess accumulates. or higher part. It's "that damn leg of mine. 16 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . the fault lies with one of those two separate halves. in fact downright lowly. we also run the risk of never being rid of our troubles. if we happen to suffer from puritanical hang-ups. compared to the mind. we tend to look down upon the fleshly part as being inferior. After all.

" We can readily see why. a new way to integrate thought with action. unscrewing the caps of jars or uncorking bottles. directly or indirectly." The Australian was therefore correct. for everything we do. always involves us in patterns of movement and rest. casual or major. Sir Charles S. It does not matter what the activity is: lying in bed. walking. Adopting the Technique does not require you to embrace a new religion or far-out philosophy. reaching to a shelf. the great Nobel Prize physiologist. closing windows. he said. ease and endurance in everything you do—even sleeping. sitting down. "To take a step is an affair not of this or that limb solely.Chapter 3 Bringing the Alexander Technique into Your Life Taking Alexander's discovery into your own life can mean strength. by stress and excess muscle tension. However we go through any or all these activities." he wrote. Besides. our particular patterns of move17 . once praised Alexander for his discovery. It simply offers a different biological approach from the one you have been using. the whole psychophysical man. standing up. the effects can afford relief in a very wide range of ailments that are caused. opening and shutting doors. Sherrington. "but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment. writing with a pen or pencil. getting in and out of automobiles. in insisting upon "treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual.

and that causes malfunctioning of the parts of the body serviced by them. it provides enough room for your organs so that your breath can massage them. If you try simply to push yourself erect. Sometimes nerves are pinched. You do so presumably to protect the injured area by immobilizing it. you unconsciously tighten the painful area and often other parts of the body as well. you simply abuse yourself in another manner. arthritic joints or an upset stomach. It sometimes happens that when you experience pain anywhere. for unless the vertebrae are stacked evenly. It's the same thing with your spine. Good or bad. everything we do in life manifests itself in the way we "use" ourselves. Good use means moving the body with maximum balance and coordination of all parts so that only the effort absolutely needed is expended. whenever you move without awareness. for the movement of another in order to maintain balance and stability. and usually inefficiently. you're putting unnecessary pressure on the organs so that they can't function as well. Bad use means employing the body in a haphazard way: one part of the body compensates at random.ment and rest constitute the particular use (Alexander's word) that we make of ourselves. If you are slumped down. What Is Good Use? The key concept of "use" is perhaps the easiest way to explain the Alexander Technique. you will be shortening others drastically. these conditions of excessive muscular tension are likely to exist. The object is not to learn all the proper combinations of 18 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . the only possible result is that while you may be lengthening some muscles. however. So in this attempt to gain desirable results forcibly. but in fact this new excess tension in the joints and muscles will slow down circulation and actually prevent your body from healing itself. Circulation is slowed down. When your body is erect. as from a twisted ankle. Indeed. Some parts of the spinal cord will then experience more pressure than others. the pressure of the body being supported by them is not evenly shared.

Once you have entered the room. you are again caught up in movement. however. The effort to hang on to some deliberate position. or the very moment you start descending the stairs. Such a course is both impossible and unnecessary. since its absence was based on nothing more than that transient "holding-in" known as posture. the word might apply on the rare occasions when you take a stance before coming into a room. Conceivably. leathernecks and chorines alike let go of these strenously maintained body attitudes. Forget the paragons of close-order drill in the Marine Corps or the symmetrical ranks of the chorus line at the Folies Bergère. Through the Alexander Technique. there are BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 19 . Unfortunately. they drop the elevated chest and the forward curvature of the spine. with its accompanying hollow in the back. The aim of the Technique is to allow a condition of ease throughout the body without creating any new distortions in the process. It is in fact quite absurd to think of attaining some ideal posture and then clinging to it through all your subsequent activity. You are not a statue to be propped about in various juxtapositions to meet the changing requirements of whatever you are engaged in. For when they depart the parade grounds or the music hall. though. is continuous and involves both physical and mental fatigue. you must at the outset dismiss from your mind all shining examples of good posture. And your customary use of yourself will reappear immediately. you learn instead one Basic Movement that can control the normal flow of all your activity." a word that ought to be jettisoned because it in no way corresponds to the conditions of real life. no matter what kind. In the ordinary work of walking and living.muscular action needed for all that you do and then try to think of them constantly as you move. or when you stand poised at the head of the stairs. So in learning the Alexander Technique. You Are Not a Statue Making good use of yourself by means of the Technique must never be equated with the static thing known as "posture.

people who do indeed seem to be trying to preserve just such a rigid and invariant attitude through all that they do. No Poses To forestall any possibility of error. This forces you to breathe with your upper chest rather than with your lower ribs and diaphragm. standing and so on) and then go through life using these and only these poses. No Positions. However. First of all. your lung capacity is thereby diminished. More air can then pass in and out of the lungs. and even if there were. the mere act of getting out of a chair takes the body through more than a hundred positions. When you are not slumped. How to Look at the Pictures When you consult the photos that accompany the directions in this book. it may be well to state flatly what the Alexander Technique is not. more waste materials are cleansed 20 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . If you slump even slightly. to prevent the least trace of confusion. Second. do not look upon them as static poses or positions to be imitated. there is no "right" pose for any position. The Breath of Life A vital function of our body that is impaired by bad use is breathing. and. the blurry effects of such an attempt at authenticity would nullify the purposes of useful and simple instruction. the positions involved in darning a sock would require a whole lifetime of memorization. as a result. more room is provided in the chest cavity. Think of them as having been extracted from some ongoing movement. They are intended only as a guide or pointer to the action described. it would be different for every person on this planet because each human body is different. each illustration should be provided by stroboscopic photography or some other form of action picture. You will not be asked to memorize the "right" pose for every possible body position (sitting. Ideally.

from your body. With the increase in the freedom of your breathing machinery, the quality of your voice can improve.

Let It Happen
Good breathing is integral to the Alexander Technique. This does not mean that you will need to practice it in the form of separate and isolated breathing exercises. As you begin to correct your faulty use, excess muscular tension will disappear. With the release of that tension, the action of your ribs and diaphragm in breathing will automatically take care of itself. As you progress, you may find yourself yawning or emitting deep sighs. Let them happen, for they come involuntarily and are an excellent sign that you are getting rid of excess tension. You will find that breathing supports movement at the same time that movement supports breathing. This natural and inevitable orchestration of the two is very different from superimposing some artificially learned breathing pattern upon your movements. Make sure you don't hold your breath. Don't try to do anything. Let it happen.

Your Breathing Improves
Notice, when talking, whether you are breathing in through your nose or your mouth. Give yourself time to breathe. It is helpful on occasion to close your lips and allow the air to come in through your nose when you need breath. This helps to release any tightness in the throat. Many of us develop the habit of gulping or sucking in air. This tenses the throat and is accompanied by a downward pull of the head. But when you don't collapse your chest and pull down, a slight vacuum is created in the lungs, which pulls in the air for you. When you breathe normally in this way, every time stale air leaves your lungs, new air will automatically come back in. Through the Alexander Technique, you can learn to leave your breathing mechanism— your body—alone to function freely and without effort. BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 21

How We Got This Way
To be sure, in this misguided quest, the breathingexercisers and the posture-builders may really be seeking some of the benefits that are achieved by the Alexander Technique. The grace and naturalness that the Technique imparts to you will be highly noticeable. Whenever you use it, your entire body will be more erect—your chest is not collapsed, your torso does not settle in on itself. As you continue to practice, an improvement in muscle tone occurs. If such are the blessings reaped through making good use of oneself, why are they so deplorably lacking in most of us? What has gone wrong? Why so much grief physically and mentally? It is the burden of civilization's advance, Alexander believed, that has brought upon us our present deteriorated condition. Today, instead of adapting our bodies to a slowly changing terrain, we capriciously adapt a fast-changing environment to arbitrary standards of comfort (even taste). Through current upheaval, the one thing that has remained essentially the same is the structure of the human body. Prior to the development of technology, changes in the world around us took place over a span of millions of years, slow enough for us to keep pace through subtle, unconscious alterations in the body itself. But our restless civilization has brought about a revolution in our surroundings so rapid that this process of gradual development has been quite outdistanced. As a result, the world we know now is completely foreign to the one to which human beings long ago adjusted. Our life-style has become a hybrid interaction of a body, originally adapted to primitive survival, with an environment of elevators, mattresses, automobiles and comfy chairs. Our physical and social universe is radically different, and our physical equipment has been impaired in its responses to the new demands thrust upon it by contemporary living. We have to make intelligent use of ourselves,


said Alexander, if we want to meet the new conditions effectively.

Three Easy Tests
To illustrate the degenerative influence that civilized living has exerted upon the human organism, Alexander proposed three simple tests: (You are requested to interrupt your reading for a moment and carry out the following three experiments.) 1. Move your head without your shoulders. 2. Open your mouth without tilting your head back. 3. Turn out your toes without first shifting your heels. While doing each test, be alert and sensitive in registering how you move so you may catch the unnecessary movement involved.

See for Yourself
In quite the same spirit of experiment, you may now begin to notice, in the course of your daily activity, how you go about handling objects. Next time you brush your teeth, for example, stay alert and observe just how heavy the toothbrush is, how much energy is required to lift it and keep it in your hand. How much pressure is needed to brush? In the toothpaste commercials on television, it sometimes appears as though the people are trying to brush the teeth right out of their mouths. (See Fig. 8, p. 66.) You can make similar observations when you sit down to write a letter. With a little try-and-see, you can tell how much strength is actually required to hold onto the pen and get the ink to flow onto the paper. Once you consider how you actually go through any activity, you can begin to affect a change in your performance of it.


'Alexander uncovered the whole pattern of bad use. like a cat or a dog. What is more. definite movements. The human antagonist is baffled by the perfect efficiency of the beast's innate responses. prevents. In curing himself of his loss of voice by noting the slight pulling backward and down of his head. and which is the essence of the Alexander Technique. Observe even a domestic animal. We are not about to rejoin the lower animals or "go primitive. and you will see a creature completely relaxed yet still capable of making sudden. may be enunciated as follows: AS YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT. however. AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT UPWARD DIRECTION. more than anything else. No overdoing. But the answer to the perilous misfunction that has befallen mankind through the anxiety and stress of modern living cannot be to call a halt to civilization. The road to the recuperation of our diminished faculties. a sane solution to our problem. cultural advantages and triumphs of civilization. the expenditure of energy in animal movement is exquisitely attuned to the requirements of what needs to be done. 24 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . defeats and frustrates whatever we may intend on every level of our existence—physical. It is this same harmful pattern of involuntary preparation which is involved in everything we do. which accompanied formal recitation. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR WHOLE BODY." There is. the German writer Heinrich von Kleist makes this point by describing how a chained bear. at rest. successfully defends itself by exerting very slight movements to deflect the thrusts and feints of a champion swordsman. emotional and mental. no underdoing. They have no price to pay.The Road to Take Animals in the wild miss out on the satisfactions. relying on animal instinct. which we will learn in this book. but they are likewise spared its debilitating side effects. In a famous allegory. which blocks. And it is this.

joint-wrenching gyrations of any kind. The word "movement" as used here has nothing to do with the 1-2-3-4! 1-2-3-4! calisthenics you did in gym class. You are not called upon to run miles or to lift heavy weights. that the strenuous and repetitive exertions popularly known as "phys. It is in no way related to muscle-snapping." can be performed more effectively and with much greater benefit once you learn the Basic Movement and apply its principle to them.Chapter 4 The Basic Movement You are now ready to learn the Basic Movement that incorporates the Alexander principle in a form you can practice whenever you wish. personal happiness. if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity. The mere performance of this simple movement can. however. ed. 25 . There are no exercises in this book. the word always refers to some movement or action of the utmost simplicity. This distinction is especially important because. It is true. Nothing tiresome will be required of you. and everywhere else in this book where a movement or action is given. Not an Exercise But first a word about a word. as we shall see in the following chapter. put you on the road to a new life of health. In the Basic Movement. physical freedom and. the calisthenic approach stands in direct opposition to the Alexander Technique. in the deepest sense.

Turn your head to look around you. the sooner you will experience a new lightness and ease and a sense of real assurance in whatever you may be doing. The Basic Movement Exploring Yourself You may carry out this movement either while seated or standing. a guideline to follow: a new way of thinking and moving. are presently learning the Alexander Technique because it makes a real difference in crew performance. Next follow the instructions for the Basic Movement itself.The same applies to those more skilled and motivated forms of calisthenics which we call sports. No trance: eyes open. Some Olympic rowers. it can undergo amazing improvement after you have bettered the use of your body in pursuing it. or whatever your game may be. swim or bowl. rather. This moment of selfobservation is presented under the heading "Exploring Yourself. Whether you play golf or tennis. The sooner you apply to any normal activity—such as tying your shoe or lifting a bag of groceries—the Basic Movement of letting your head move up and letting your body follow. It provides. 26 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . We shall do it sitting." and the same format is used as a preliminary to every other movement or action in this book. It is not to be repeated mindlessly in hopes of programming yourself into some automatic routine that has nothing directly to do with daily living. for example. How to Start The Basic Movement is preceded by a brief inspection of your total condition while you carry out the action in your customary or habitual manner.

crackling sounds in your spine? Is your breathing slowed or stopped? The Basic Movement While turning your head slowly from one side to the other in order to survey the room. Turn it from side to side. Notice if it brings up and aligns your body. Next. so that your neck lengthens above your shoulders instead of craning forward or jamming back.) The upward direction will keep you from cramping your neck throughout these movements. (Figs.) Now that you've gone through the Basic Movement once. Allow your whole body to follow the upward direction of your head. 5.) Remember to keep your eyes open and looking. (Figs. What do you notice about the turning of your head? Do you feel any tense or tight muscles in your neck? Does your body twist about when you turn your head? Do you hear any popping. 8. Notice if this upward direction of your head affects the smoothness and ease of the side-to-side motion. then tip it down to look at the floor. (Figs. 4. Tip your head to look up at the ceiling. Continue to allow your whole head to move up and away from your body while you perform the turning movement. 1. continuing to let your head ease up. Your Whole Head You must learn to think of your head as three- THE BASIC MOVEMENT 27 . tip it back to look up at the ceiling.See the room. 6.3.2. 7. then forward to look down at the floor. This does not mean that your body twists and turns with your head. the following clarification of the main words used should give you even more success the next time you do it. but that it is allowed to delicately lengthen during your head movement. add the Basic Movement: move your head up and away from your torso and let your body follow.

1. Easing upward and away as you turn your head. From side to side. 3. 2. 28 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Beginning from a usual slump.

5. As you tip your head back. 6. And tip it forward. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 29 .4. Easing upward.

dimensional. you will understand that you do not need to hold your head up. The fact is that the spine in your neck is very near the center of your neck. 10. not just along the back of it as many imagine. 30 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . When you are directed to move your head. It is important that you realize how substantial a support your neck provides for your head. top and front (your face). 7. (Fig. the diameter of your vertebrae is larger than that of a silver dollar—not the size of a nickel or a quarter. the neck is sturdy and the head rests easily on that large base as it moves. this means your whole head.) When you remember that your chin is part of your head. (Fig. sides. you will be less likely to jut it forward.) Often people have a tendency to lead movements with their chin. including the back. thus pulling your head back and down. 8. 9. Also. Cramping your neck unnecessarily. With this in mind.

The whole head.9. 10. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 31 . Jutting the chin forward needlessly.

you must not forget it. includes your shoulders and ends at your hip joints. the bottom line of your buttocks. The Upward Direction "Upward" does not necessarily mean ceilingward. up toward the ceiling. On Your Way Repeat the Basic Movement and see what happens. People tend to think of only one dimension when allowing their body to move upward: either their front or their back. (Fig. 13. Simple as this may seem. "upward" is where the top of your spine points. that direction is.Your Whole Body "Body" refers to your whole torso. 12. your body must follow. (Fig. It means the moving of your head up and away from your body. remember that upward always applies to movement—wherever the top of the spine happens to be pointing—and is not a fixed position. including sides. As a result. If you remember this connection. you will find that your body will automatically want to follow that upward movement. when you allow your head to move upward. When you are sitting or standing. causing unnecessary effort. You will probably experience some sort of change or notice some difference. Perhaps you'll be aware that you were pushing 32 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. It begins at the base of your neck.) Above all. We're aiming for as much flexibility and ease as possible. 11.) Remember to think of your whole body as three-dimensional. in following the instructions. their body will curve forward or backward. Because your torso is connected to your head.) However. as you lean your body to the side. Your entire torso must be considered and no part forgotten. back and front. of course. and the moving of your torso up from the hips. Upward directs a positive action in order to prevent the usual negative action of pulling the head back and down and slumping.

The whole body.11. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 33 .

you will have begun the process of keeping your eyes open and observing how you move. there will be no time lag between the movement of the cars and engine. The engine represents the head.yourself and using more effort to sit (or stand) than you are now. Upward. Or as Alexander once paradoxically described the movement: "All together one after another. In any case. You might compare it to the image of a train. If it is linked up properly. 34 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . although the engine always begins the movement of the train with its forward impetus is transmitted almost simultaneously to each car. The Instant Train The movement of the body following the head is fundamental to the Alexander Technique. Or maybe you'll feel that it is easier to move your head in the way described." 12. 73. and the cars the remainder of the body.

a very subtle and continuous movement of the head upward "only an infinitesimal amount" (as Alexander wrote from England to a man in America who was learning the Technique on his own). The Basic Movement is a first-class example of the way a very simple adjustment in the use we make of ourselves can have tremendous. obvious. there are no "right" positions. you are not required to take up any new position in order to correct your misuse. It is a single adjustment. though. far-reaching consequences. on the order of mil- THE BASIC MOVEMENT 35 . The Basic Movement is accomplished without any big. external show. Here.How to Succeed Without Really Trying Most people learning something new are eager to discover the "right" way to do it. What matters is that you improve the process of how you move. The lengthening of your neck when you move your head upward is tiny. For as we have seen in the preceding chapter.

though. Here. It is perhaps part of our American credo to believe that only prodigious feats can produce worthwhile results. some people are reluctant to believe that anything remarkable can result from the Alexander Technique unless they do something that demonstrates huge effort. However. they try to become human giraffes. 36 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . is one case where the big results come from a tiny change. Your ruler may not detect the difference. But no neck-stretching whatever is required! Just a very slight movement of the head upward from the body will do the trick. They strain their necks mightily. but you will feel it in every bone of your body.limeters.

They are not likely to change our condition for the better. Some of these bestow considerable good upon us. updown. The Trouble with Physical Exercises After visiting the gym of a leading exercise teacher in Australia one day." the well-known nursery rhyme tells us. This is because they have been designed with a very different objective from that of ordinary calisthenics." Just so. Alexander became convinced that such training would never meet the needs of people who came there in quest of physical development. If they used themselves badly in ordinary life. In fact. left-right activity most of us associate with physical education. are clearly of a very different order from the strenuous push-pull. any exercises we do to get in shape will likewise be carried out in a manner that is harmful. they would continue to do so throughout their physical exertions. "There was a crooked man. and the seven supplementary Actions that will follow in Part II. If we comport ourselves in a manner that is harmful. Much the same is true of the numerous varieties of physical manipulation and massage that are applied to our bodies. "and he walked a crooked mile.Become a Whole Person The Basic Movement you have just learned. the repeated and accentuated performance of the prescribed movements—thus badly executed—increased the damage they were already doing themselves. 37 .

Another person may be oblivious of a tendency to lift her chin and jut it forward (until she sees herself on television). 38 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .but their intention is not to teach a better use of ourselves. How often have you driven from point A to point B without noticing what lies between or even how you got to point B." ludicrously askew). think back to the last time you borrowed an automatic car and reached down for gears that weren't there. Moreover. We unfold the whole repertoire of our daily activity with little attention to how we are doing what we are doing. Only the very gross or screaming message—a headache. we pay scant heed to the constant flow of information that is being communicated by our bodies. some welcome temporary relief from the pains and aches caused by a faulty swing. a muscle cramp. driving a car. The Trance in Which We Live Unlike conventional exercise and manipulation. In this half-conscious state in which we operate. so too has our sensory awareness gradually adjusted to them. Consider. they would now feel "wrong. as these bad habits have developed little by little. Most of the time we operate our bodies on a subconscious level. Perhaps a golfer can find. for example. if you are accustomed to a standard shift. We continue wearing ourselves out and tearing ourselves apart from day to day because we remain in deep ignorance of our bad tension habits until we reach a crisis of pain or run into some drastic physical or emotional trouble. Or again. We cannot perceive the faulty way we are using ourselves because it has come to "feel right. sore ligaments or illness—gets through. the Alexander Technique coordinates conscious thought with action in order that you may deal with yourself. through alleviating treatment of this kind. Thus. but his trouble will surely recur if the error in his swing is not corrected. a person may carry one shoulder higher than the other and never notice (were his shoulders to be set level for him." We simply don't get true messages from our bodies anymore.

The main component of what we perceive is the sound we think we are projecting. I have a good ear for other people's accents. the actual acoustic production plays a subordinate part. and. He offers himself as an example: "I am of Hungarian origin. but this discrepancy is masked from us by the process of hearing what we intend and not what we are in fact uttering. Perhaps no one has given a sharper and more disquieting picture of it than the writer Arthur Koestler." So too may our singing be stridently out of tune and yet sound just fine to us until a musical accompaniment pulls us back on the track. therefore. according to Koestler. There may be a world of difference between what we think we hear and our performance as heard by others. People who listen for the first time to the sound of their voice played back on a tape recorder usually get a shock. however defective and self-defeating they may be. caused by a confusion between the event as intended and the event as it really happens? How. says Koestler. meets the problem by calling BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 39 . "The clumsy gesture is screened off from awareness by the direct impact of the image of the intended graceful movement on perception. remarks Koestler. all the Actions in this book for learning it. yet perceive my own voice as if it were free from it.Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves There is still another factor at work in this universal unfamiliarity with ourselves and our functioning." The Crown of the Senses So how do we defeat this tendency toward what might be called a kind of wish-fulfillment in our senses. in short. because in the perception of one's own voice. and although my foreign accent retains the specific density of pea-soup. The same applies also to our gestures and movements. All this occurs. do we get rid of the bad habits that plague us? The Alexander Technique. I was virtually unaware of this till I first listened to my voice on a recorded broadcast.

but in the tendons and joint membranes as well. in their concern with it. It is the kinesthetic sense that supplies the information we need. In order to ensure that we are using our bodies properly. This enricher of the whole person is considered by some connoisseurs and gourmets of good physical condition to be nothing less than "the crown of the senses. Most everyone knows something at least about this faculty. we do not have to know the names of our muscles or how to locate them on a chart. It is sometimes called the "muscle sense." the distinguishing mark of superb physical condition. of trying to "unscrew the inscrutable. At a UNESCO conference on brain mechanisms and awareness. 40 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . a real chance is offered for the enrichment of our entire organism. It is by means of this sense that we remain aware of the position of every part of our body even when our eyes are closed." It is not really that inscrutable. It is not one of the original five long ago listed by Aristotle. one speaker even accused the others. It is from this sense that we are continually receiving knowledge of the gestures we make and of the pressures or tensions anywhere in our body. or the agile ease and poise of a friend in the way he handles himself in all the ordinary activities of life. jugglers or sculptors. We use it to assess the range and force of our movements and also in adapting ourselves to the weight of anything we lift.upon a faculty we all possess but often overlook because it is not one of the so-called "five senses" we usually talk about. "Kinesthetic" is a cross between the words "kinetic" (motion) and "esthetic" (feeling) and means "feeling motion. Clearly evident in people like circus aerialists. or the "kinesthetic sense" as it is called." though actually its sense organs may be found not only in the muscles. but in calling upon this faculty. we are paying tribute to it. Whenever we admire the seemingly effortless coordination in the movements of a great athlete. the development of this sense underlies the entire program set forth in this book." Since it is essential in the practice of the Alexander Technique. it is deplorably lacking in a very great number of us.

S." heralded by Alexander. N. clear idea of ourselves in action. Whole Person There are always two ways a person can learn to carry out any action. during the past decade due to the popular rise of the human potential movement. as Dr. Virtually every branch of that movement makes some use of body awareness. get a good. sometimes so completely that many intelligent people go through their days "wholly ignorant even of the essential existence of these warpthreads in the fabric of our conscious life. however. It was. One way is to focus on the single part of the body that actually does the work. The wise and respected New England medical educator Dr. Part Person vs. He called it "the warp of the sensation-fabric—the personality's dynamic index of its body." The effective practice of the Alexander Technique makes it possible to receive increasingly subtle messages from within." One trouble. by no means entirely forgotten in earlier American efforts to promote physical and emotional fitness. The other way is to use the BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 41 . in this way. This in turn produces a harmonious interplay of all our faculties and thereby brings about the first visible fruit of our growing kinesthetic development: good muscular coordination. Dearborn pointed out. Dearborn always emphasized the important place that the kinesthetic sense holds in the life of every human being. we can increase the reliability of our kinesthetic sense and establish a new standard of good use. is that the much stronger sense experiences of light and color may drown out this subtler experience. has come very much to the foreground in the U.We can feel what we are doing and. Through the sensitive practice of the Basic Movement and the seven Actions which build upon it. Discover a World Within The "crown of the senses. George V.

but must see whatever they look at. his body may then compensate inefficiently to keep its balance. Do not hold your breath from a sense of strain. you swing your arm in a manner that allows your whole body to be balanced and your energy to be directed effectively. With the first method.natural integrating mechanism of the whole body. Staying in the Moment In carrying out the Actions that follow. enables you to allow this total pattern. Your eyes must not become glazed. a person wanting to throw a ball will find that he must swing his arm. This means using the Basic Movement. during the whole time you devote to an Action. physically-mentally unified Technique you gain from these Actions. This does not mean exerting effort throughout your entire organism in order to swing your arm. 42 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . be open to any and every message of feeling that comes to you from the various parts of your body. From moment to moment. You will then discover for yourself what it means in actual practice. Because there are so many possible combinations of tension. in time. the Basic Movement. he may unwittingly raise his shoulder. The second way of performing an action is to involve your whole person in it. You will learn directly the benefits of this regular experience of complete personal harmony. Rather. how it feels and how it affects a person to live by means of the unique. So he swings his arm as best he can. It is the kinesthetic sense which. to control whatever you do. all parts included and coordinated to perform the action. He has no real awareness of the rest of himself. For example. keep alert. any number of things can happen that will cause more effort than necessary. and when he hoists his shoulder.

We have all encountered at one time or another those rare men and women whose upright bearing. widely accepted at present. However. That gravity does indeed provide a persistent and unvarying element in man's ecology there can be no doubt. down. working against us through all the years of our life. that the force of gravity. That much is certainly true. it plays a major role in whatever we do. stoop and wither before the onslaught of advancing years. we are done in by it. elastic lineaments. Since our body consists of mass. Indeed. We continue instead under the spell of the rather sinister and frightening idea. down until finally. it has become a prevalent sign of our era. is now surprisingly common at a much earlier time of life. we tend to disregard or forget this reassuring evidence of our senses. But what about the rest of the theory? THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 43 . pulls us down. what used to be known as "dowager's hump. unequal to the combat. it is self-evident that all our movements and activities are subject to gravity's pull. lithe movement and springy step belie their actual age." no longer related to income group or social status and every bit as typical of men as of women. An eyesore and a handicap. sunshine and other more familiar elements.Chapter 6 The Technique as a Way to Stay Young The youthful manner and attractive bearing attained through the Alexander Technique should dispel once and for all the conviction that men and women must inevitably bow down. Like air.

drooping mouth and hanging breasts. But the cumulative results of a lifetime of unequal struggle can be seen in some bent-over and hobbling older people who have lost many inches. we seem peculiarly ill-equipped for maintaining an upright position. down. They had even gained in height (and lost at the waist). it is the indomitable force which defeats us in the end. down ." The Upright Creature Supposedly. As bipeds. The unflinching. all this is the price we pay for standing erect. which lays us on our death bed and lowers us to the grave. and the problem is one that has been with us ever since the forepaws of our prehistoric ancestors left the ground." and "it leaves its mark in sagging wrinkles. In this view. . without let-up or cease. During sleep. . when we lie in a position parallel to the ground and thus alter the effects of the ubiquitous pull. Down. Gravity has slowly squashed them to the ground. The skylab astronauts gave us yet another glimpse of this force's baneful effects when they emerged—after months of living outside it—in a remarkably unkinked condition. people actually lose about half an inch in height. we find ourselves inextricably locked in a lifelong struggle. it works its malign influence upon us.Why We Shrink According to a popular view. which was partly the result of not being pulled down. For 44 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . According to the biologist D'Arcy W. and thus being permitted to straighten out. pitting human strength against gravity's relentless power with no chance of winning. Studies have shown that between getting out of bed in the morning and getting back in at night. the quadruped is more fortunately constructed for resistance to gravity than we are. Throughout the day. as on earth. we regain that lost stature. Thompson. unceasing pull upon us of this antagonistic force has been assigned responsibility for a very great number of the woes of aging. it is felt "in every movement of our limbs. in every beat of our hearts.

like an inverted pyramid. In a fierce book. Richard Selzer totaled up the outward woes he thinks indicate that our erect stance THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 45 . perhaps an ingenious device for cushioning shock. deformation and distortion depending upon the disparity between the pull and each person's total power of response to it. However. And strain means injury. the weight of our inner organs is carried high above our center of gravity. Must We Fall Apart? While gravity depresses all the elements of the body. Standing or sitting. Our spine is flexible. we appear to be top-heavy. Failure or defeat in any of these components adversely affects the overall struggle. The immediate battleground for humans versus gravity may be discerned throughout the musculo-skeletal system whose mainstays are the pelvis. Just standing up is a kind of acrobatic triumph involving an exact balance of varying degrees of contraction and relaxation in more than two hundred pairs of muscles. the greatest strain is sustained by the musculo-skeletal structure that keeps us erect. These muscles are reflexively maintained in a state of tonus— partially contracted and ready for work—except when the body is lying completely horizontal. with our heavy head and shoulders weighing down the skeletal structure. in respiration and circulation as well as in the nervous system. the spine and the network of muscles and ligaments. how—in this view—can we hope to contend with gravity's pull? We are compelled to oppose its force by sheer muscular power. curved in several places. This situation is said to account for many of the chronic progressive and degenerative conditions which afflict the falteringly upright. but far from ideal for steadying our weight. Dr. two-legged human race. Our structural frame is an intricate system of articulated levers—bones and joints— that are held and moved by our muscles and tendons. Mortal Lessons. thing. repercussions of the conflict are felt in all the other major systems of the body.

which enables us to deal handily with the earth's pull. feeling. is both one-sided and incomplete. the extreme and scary picture we have just looked at. They move in a superb manner quite naturally. Man is a perfect match for gravity. From an evolutionary viewpoint. our vertebrae. and before they are physically corrupted. the adventure of assuming an upright posture would probably never have been sustained if man had not become capable of it. it pivots smoothly without tension. And the mechanism is by now genetic. which is so popular today. How We Conquer As it happens. their actions are beautifully free and easy. must have evolved a suitable equipment and the correct mechanism for biped locomotion. Our hip joints grind to a stop. Observe a baby come to sitting position by itself. We inherit an easy good use of our bodies. the human species. slip. 46 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . as Professor Tinbergen has pointed out. the whole body is in a system of balance. In the very long history of walking erect. In the first two or three years of life as they gain mobility. attitude and behavior may also figure in the generalized failure of our adaptation to the ordinary strain of being on the earth's surface. Our blood gathers in hemorrhoids and varicose veins. This reflex of good use can be observed in infants. Our flesh pushes itself through into hernias. Mental confusion. It does not fully or accurately represent man's complex relationship to the downward pull he experiences from the earth. We obviously had to develop a way of neutralizing the effects of gravity in order for our life to have continued on earth. buckle and wear out.cannot successfully resist the pressure imposed upon us by gravity. Or watch a baby turn its head. no strain in the back or anywhere else. piled one atop the other. He found that body chemistry as well as the regulatory and coordination mechanisms of the body are all affected. mood. The arches of our feet fall. Selzer. According to Dr.

some form of additional support—in the case of the body. THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 47 . different from our previous experience of tension-filled activity. The movement of the head leads and influences the movement of the body so that all parts (muscles) are coordinated and work in a harmonious system of contraction and relaxation. the human species is constructed in a way to resist the pull of gravity effortlessly in keeping itself erect. We actually feel heavier because of pressure put on the joints by excess muscular tension. what has been discovered is that when all the body parts are balanced and integrated. And it is because of these tense habits that it so often feels as if gravity must be working against us. The correct messages from one body part to another (coordination) are relayed and interpreted properly. A jutting part here or there creates an imbalance and. In attempts to control ourselves. or shorten and arch our backs. When arranged naturally in a sort of flexible column. the body column will be out of kilter (Fig. with its energy and movement directed up through the top of that column—the whole torso following the head—the body will work efficiently and flexibly. Rather. (Fig. things go wrong. 2.It Goes by Itself Careful. detailed studies of this natural mechanism have offered a technical explanation in anatomical and physiological terms. 1. the reflex of our movement will be interfered with and muscle will be pitted against muscle. tense muscles—is needed to keep it standing. as with a leaning column or an uneven tower of blocks. When we do not trust our body's ability and interfere with this natural reflex of ease.) In this condition. and gravity merely compounds the problem. it is we who work against ourselves. We no longer have to depend upon large jolts or shocks from tensing muscles to tell us if something is happening. If the head does not initiate. We sense a new way of moving.). we shorten our necks and pull our chests down. In effect. the reflex system of the body is allowed to work. Only those muscles which are essential to a particular action are used in that action.

Energy and movement directed upward. The body column out of kilter. 2.1. 48 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .

walk and move. muscles throughout our body are tensing—holding on—in an effort to keep us as we are." "Your posture is terrible. then. produces this desired alignment of the total structure. Most of us are still trapped by the distant voices of parents and teachers repeating: "Stand up straight. Most of us consider ourselves balanced when we stand (otherwise how could we?)." "Don't slouch. And this muscular release goes a long way toward explaining why the Technique is effective in eliminating superfluous tension. Even when we think we're relaxed." and an elementary definition of the word is: the state of not having to hold onto something in order to maintain a position.Never a Feeling of Strain We meet gravity by keeping our "balance. Our misuse of ourselves in all that we do is the consequence of modern living." But long before we heard these and similar unhelpful exhortations. But in fact we usually are holding onto something—namely. bringing the head into real physical balance on top of the spine. Our bone structure (skeleton) is so finely organized a system of arches and supports that it takes only a tiny contraction of muscles to maintain us in the "work" of standing. A Future Without Fear Proper adjustment to gravity in the way we stand. our superb natural functioning had already vanished because of the way we were handled as infants. through the tasks we were called upon to perform before we THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 49 . the body following. The magnificent engineering of the human body does not require it. through the models we encountered and imitated in early family life and school. is obviously an old." "Or "Little girls don't sit like that. ourselves. The Alexander Technique. The new equilibrium gives relief and freedom to dozens of muscles that were previously engaged full time in "holding on" to maintain a condition that is at best a rough and hapless approximation of true balance. Such excess tension is unnecessary. inherited form of behavior.

This is why the popular picture of gravity as inescapable master and despoiler is for so many of us the stark truth. we can regain our easeful place on the planet and go confidently forward with the concerns that matter in our life. We are no longer the helpless playthings or victims of a hostile force from below. We can reverse that trend once and for all the moment we decide to change our bad use of ourselves and reinstate our pristine grace. By means of the Alexander Technique. 50 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . we violate our own natural mechanism for meeting the downward pull exerted on all forms of terrestrial life. means that tension and gravity are operating in concert. we can call a halt to our customary interference with the body's natural reflexes and thus facilitate our antigravity response. and which Alexander pinpointed as the root of our difficulties. or the adult of middle or advanced age. The effect is too strong for the body to resist. The foreshortening of the back neck muscles with which we initiate our every act.had the physical capacity or readiness. and through our adaptation to the furniture and paraphernalia with which we lived. But this need not be. In the way we misuse ourselves. The upward movement of the head followed by the body can free us to initiate whatever we choose to do in whatever manner we choose to do it. By means of the Alexander Technique. The youngster now starting out. and the entire trunk and spine are slowly compressed. has no reason to dread that the years ahead are going to pull him or her down in a decline of slow surrender to gravity.

P A R T II The Practice of the Technique How to Do It .

(When the weather permits. therefore. without exception. which was given in Chapter 4. in your kitchen or office. and (3) suggestions for how it may be applied to everyday life. are extensions and developments of the Basic Movement. doing 52 . w h i c h as we h a v e s e e n i s : AS YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT. No Dumb-Bells. You can do them anywhere: at home or at work. to refer to it before undertaking a new movement. Often the Basic Movement within the Action description is italicized. That movement contains the key to the whole T e c h n i q u e . but all the Actions. They do not employ anything in the way of athletic equipment or apparatus. No Leotards The Actions in this program are simple. Each Action leads to the next according to a definite plan.The Seven Actions An Effortless Program The following chapters present a simple step-by-step program of seven Actions for learning the Alexander Technique. which will show you how to apply the basic principle to all your movements. (2) the Action itself. UPWARD DIRECTION. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR WHOLE BODY. Keep in mind these and other italicized instructions throughout the Action as they are essential to the success of your experimenting. Each step consists of three parts: (1) a preliminary exploration of your personal condition before you begin. AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT It is advisable.

them outdoors will provide the additional benefit of fresh air.) The Actions require no gym shorts, or leotards or other special outfits. Street clothes, office clothes—any clothes you happen to be wearing—are fine, and no change of apparel will be necessary afterward. Whatever clothes you do wear should, however, allow you sufficient leeway so that you are not restricted in your movements and do not feel hampered in your breathing. If your clothes are not decently comfortable, you may want to loosen your shirt collar or open your belt a notch. Simply do whatever is needed to allow you to be freer in moving about and less confined in your breathing.

A Way to Begin
Read the instructions for each Action slowly until you have an idea of what it is. (If you prefer, have someone read the instructions aloud to you.) Then proceed to carry them out in the manner described. Sometimes the instructions are given in metaphorical language to convey what is wanted. Thus, when you are instructed to "direct your energy upward," don't worry about a scientific meaning: simply follow the instruction! You needn't do a great many Actions at one session; you may prefer to do them gradually. For example, you may do an Action for a day or so, noticing throughout the rest of the week how that particular movement appears when it shows up in your everyday activities. Then go on to the next Action. Initially, follow them in the order given, as each movement leads to the next according to a definite plan. Some people may prefer to do several a week. Be your own judge of your particular rate. Later, you can always return to a given Action and see if you can discover something more in it. However often you repeat them, you will always derive some benefit, provided the element of awareness is there. Never do them mechanically; you are not a machine. Indeed, treating yourself THE SEVEN ACTIONS 53

like a machine is the bane of what is ordinarily meant by "exercise." Paying attention to what is happening every moment of this program reeducates your senses and muscles.

For Your Enjoyment
Although a conscientious attitude is necessary, it is not necessary to drive yourself to the limits of your endurance. Indeed, that is an entirely wrong approach. It is far more beneficial to do an Action sensitively three or four times, without strain or tension, than to do it automatically many times. Remember, you are not in competition with anyone. You are doing the Action only for yourself, for your own good. If you rush through a meal, you do not give yourself the opportunity to taste what you are eating or to digest the food properly. Ill-digested movement, like ill-digested food, is less beneficial to you. You will enjoy the Actions more if they are done in a spirit of experiment and play. You should even allow yourself a little time in which to feel and enjoy the aftereffects of each Action. Do not rush from one directly into the next. Tall, short, thin, fat, lanky or padded, whatever the proportions of your body and whatever your age, there is nothing to prevent you from learning these Actions and doing them with enjoyment. You will adjust them to your own body as you go along.

Nine Rules to Follow
1. Your "head" means the whole three-dimensional globe—not just your face or chin or some other part of it. (See Fig. 9, p. 31.) 2. Your "body" means the whole torso. (See Fig. 11, p. 33.) 3. "Upward" indicates a direction, not a fixed place. (See Figs. 12, 13, pp. 34 and 35.)



4. Refer to the Basic Movement (pp. 26-27) each time you proceed to a new Action. 5. Perform each Action at your own pace, not in the fastest way possible. How is what matters. 6. Stay alive: Keep breathing and seeing the world around you. There is no reason to hold your breath or go glassy-eyed. 7. Do not worry about executing the Actions "correctly." It is not a question of doing them the "right way," but rather of discovering greater flexibility and freedom in your movements. 8. Breathe easily and naturally through your nose. 9. Perform each Action as though for the first time.


Repeat three or four times. Let your whole head move up and away from your body and pivot on the top of your spine (top of your neck). Notice whether or not you are able to move your head more easily and let your head move up. Do you really need to use your body as well as your neck to turn your head? Lean forward and then sit back in the chair. sore muscles or stiffness. include your body in that upward movement and lean forward. don't change your position. (Fig. such as a popping or crackling noise in your spine. 1. but look around the room by turning your head. Note any sensations of which you are aware. Involve your neck muscles as needed. but don't force your head around.Action 1 Leaning Forward and Backward Exploring Yourself Sit in a chair and turn your head from side to side and then up and down to look around the room. Your neck will twist a little to let your head turn farther to the right or left.) While allowing your head to continue 56 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . What parts of you tense in order to move forward and then back? Do you push yourself forward instead of letting your hip joints simply hinge? Do you hold your breath? Applying the Basic Movement Still sitting. Now that you've begun to think about how you are using your head.

2.upward and away from the top of your spine.) If you have difficulty moving without pushing. 2. 1. Unnecessary pushing with your body. Lean forward by lengthening upward. Keep your seat. In leaning forward. let your body follow upward as it leans forward in space. find out the difference between pushing your head up with your body and following the upward motion of your head. Try both. (Fig. then let your body follow that motion. reaching to turn the T. simply bend at the hips to lean forward.V. tip your head forward. Applications to Daily Life Some examples of leaning forward and back: tying your shoe while seated. lighting someone's cigarette from a seated position and eating at the table. toward the floor. on or off from your chair. LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD 57 .

pull down a little more than you normally would. 4. The tendency is to collapse the chest and push the chin toward the bowl in order to avoid spilling the soup. (Fig.Eating Soup Especially watch what happens when you eat soup." one of my teachers would often say.) Probably the easiest way to eat soup is to lean forward effortlessly (by following your head up) and then let your torso curl slightly to bring your mouth closer to the bowl.) Then experience getting out of that position by first becoming aware of a real connection be- 58 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .) You will also appear more graceful and eliminate the balancing act. (Fig. 3. (Fig. 5. How to Get Out of a Slump "Sometimes you just want to have a good old slump.) You may have tried the opposite strategy: sitting very straight and trying to balance the spoon all the way to your mouth in an effort to appear graceful. 6. The next time you discover yourself in a slump. (Fig.

let the upward energy continue. Then begin to let your head move up delicately. You've achieved a little more ease just by moving. 3. You can do this anytime you find yourself slouching.) Greater freedom in breathing brings greater freedom in speaking. LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD 59 . Do you leave them free or do you pull them down? Now think of moving your head up and away from your body and letting your body follow that direction while you speak.tween your whole head and whole body. 20-22. your body following up after it while you lean forward and then back. (Fig. straight and awkward. Pulling down. 5. (See pp. Easing upward. you may have noticed a change in your breathing. The Way You Talk How you talk is affected by what you do with your head. 4.) Note the change that has taken place as you emerge from your slump. Stiff. Try reading aloud from a book and see if you can notice what you do with your head and neck. While you have been learning to follow the upward direction of your head with your whole body. 7. As you talk.

You can change this by allowing your body to follow the upward motion of your head. When you have difficulty moving your jaw in this way. it usually indicates that you hold tension there when you speak. To check the flexibility of your jaw. leaving the jaw muscles loose. Easing upward. The ease of your head also helps your lower jaw to release. You are therefore using more effort than you need to for speaking. Now open and close your jaw with your hands. very gently place your fingertips on your chin just below your lower lip. 60 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . with your thumbs on the underside of your jaw. 7. The slump.6.

lift both over your head. Then bring them down again. At first. do the movement easily enough to notice what you do with your body and head. 2. Do you tense your neck or jut your chin forward? Do you lean forward or backward with your upper torso? What parts of your body besides your arms are involved in this movement? Perhaps there are other things that you'll notice. 3. palms resting down. legs included. While your neck lengthens and your body follows the upward motion of your head. what you do with the remainder of your body. Starting with your arms at your sides.) Move your hands along your legs toward your knees. you can try it standing. later. continuing to pay attention to your head and body.Action 2 Moving Arms Exploring Yourself Do this one while sitting. Leave your hands there and let your arms rest comfortably at your sides. Every part of your body is related to every other part in movement. When your arms are 61 . let your arms lengthen out through your fingertips. (Figs. Apply the Basic Movement Place your hands on the tops of your thighs. 1. Let your head begin easing away from your body. while you lift your arms will affect the ease and efficiency with which you can move them. Then try moving them quickly and in several different ways. In other words.

Repeat the movement of raising your arms.) As with your head and body. Then let your arms come back down in front of you. During this entire sequence. adding to it the new direction for your shoulders. shoulders or neck to move your arms. let your arms lengthen and let your head rest lightly on the top of your neck. you needn't force your shoulders to move this way. Beware of pulling down or tightening your chest. 6. 7. (Fig.) Think of each shoulder moving to the side upward and outward from the body to prevent any unnecessary tightening there. 4. When your hands touch your knees. (Figs.straight. lift them over your head. bend your elbows and bring your hands back to your upper thighs. Applications to Daily Life What usually happens is that people shorten most of the muscles of any limb or any part of the body to move that part 62 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . although you can allow them to move. 5.

That locks the elbow joint. Ask yourself if the energy you use is really appropriate to how light a toothbrush is and the amount of pressure you need to apply to your teeth. you will be able to avoid a lot of excess tension that would otherwise occur in your shoulders and neck. That takes a lot of extra work. which are shortening. In the course of your daily activities. 3. to bend the elbow the way most of us do. and most people do it unwittingly. 1. we make a tiny jerk of the arm. 2. Brushing Your Teeth A good example of how most people do more work than they need to is brushing teeth. let your arms lengthen. notice how you reach to pick up and use an object. While your body follows your head up. For example. By watching how you use your arms. Then we unconsciously select the proper muscle to do the bending and use that muscle to work against the rest of the muscles.or to bend a joint. MOVING ARMS 63 . pulling the upper arm toward the shoulder.

5. No need to pull down and tighten. 64 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .4. 6.

Your shoulders move upward and outward.Next time you brush. 8. which simply adds an unnecessary restriction to your freedom of movement. MOVING ARMS 65 . (Fig. (Fig. (Figs. 9.) Also note if you are overdoing the action by reaching out toward the door long before you get there. Do a little experimenting to see how much strength is actually required to reach out to the knob and take hold of it. 10. give it some thought. Opening a Door You can make similar observations when you open a door. Also notice what you do with your other arm and your shoulders.) 7. Then let your head ease up and your body follow and see if you can allow your arm to float up to the knob by lengthening out through your fingertips. See if you can make it easier. 11.) There is a tendency in standing activities like this one to lock your knees.

9. Next time you pick up your son or daughter. Pulling down. especially children. a child can feel it in the way you touch him. think a little and notice what you are doing with yourself. If you are tense and nervous. Let your head move up and your arms lengthen and hold the child with the 66 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .8. The body following the head upward. With Children The way you use your arms in handling a young child will definitely affect how that child moves. The amount of ease you have in your own body affects almost anyone you touch.

Do not inject any effort into the easy movement the child already possesses. Lengthening. The amount of ease from you that reaches the child will influence him to calmer and less resistant behavior. least amount of effort needed. an undue amount of tension is produced in his back and shoulders. support him at the torso. Also important is exactly what part of the child you hold when you lift him or help him to walk or to sit. 11. When you support a child with your hands in helping him to sit or stand. if the child brings himself to sitting.10. On the other hand. Overdoing. MOVING ARMS 67 . which is maintained while the baby sits. he uses his whole body in a system of balances with no tension in his back or anywhere else. When a six-month-old child is brought up by pulling on his arms.

As you let your head move upward and away from your body with your torso following. 1. From a standing position. This will allow you to move as a unit rather than in disconnected sections—for example. stopping and starting several times until you feel that you have made some discoveries about your usual walk. you do not need to lean or fall forward. step out with your right foot and walk forward. 2. bend your right knee. Notice in which direction your energy moves. the upward movement of your head and torso will move you forward. hips forward. then shoulders following. with each step forward consisting of an awkward fall on that foot.) Stop and start again several times.) When walking. Which part of your body leads as you walk? Stop. It will help if you start 68 . 4. 3. (Figs. begin to walk. Applying the Basic Movement Begin standing. then head. As you start walking again.Action 3 Walking with Ease Exploring Yourself Find a room that has some open space enough to walk around in comfortably. shift your weight onto your left foot. note what part of your body begins the motion and which direction you move in first: side to side? backward? forward? Continue walking for a few minutes. (Figs.

WALKING WITH EASE 69 .1. Walking with ease.2.

3. 70 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Moving in disconnected sections.

with hips forward. head dropped.4. WALKING WITH EASE 71 . Awkward.

with both feet under you and your weight evenly distributed. (Fig. (There is naturally a slight. whether you start at a gallop or more gradually accelerate from a walk to a run. infinitesimal undulation of the hips forward and back when you walk—unless you tense up and interfere with it. that I had to stretch my legs to get them down there. You'll be pleased at the gain in lightness and ease. therefore. notice whether your head continues to ease up as you walk.) In running. I discovered I was no longer pushing into my hips toward the floor on every step.) 72 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . I felt that my feet would no longer reach the floor. Instead. there's often a tendency to pull the head back and down. Each time you start. Applications to Daily Life My first experience with walking by means of the Alexander Technique was new and strange to me. I discovered my old habit had involved sinking into my hips and throwing myself off balance every time I shifted my weight from one leg to the other. walk around the room. Remember that walking and easing upward happen at the same time.) Jogging and Running With any degree of speed. (Fig. Notice whether your hips shift from side to side or up and down. Avoid thinking of moving your head upward and then walking as two separate actions. 6. For once I began walking by the Alexander Technique. Place your fingers on the front side and thumbs on your upper buttocks. 5. To test this for yourself. I was letting my body glide along at a constant distance from the floor while continuing to explore the act of walking. see that you ease your head upward and allow your body to follow up after it. putting your hands at the spot on each hip where your leg bends.

the golfer is getting in his own way. the upright stance provides flexibility in the shoulders and the torso and makes possible the maximum control over the swing. He will then have a true one-piece swing. which helps increase the speed and control of it. With a compacted approach. it is the speed of the club head and not the force with which it is swung that makes the ball travel farthest.) Otherwise he fears he cannot swing hard enough. His whole body will become involved in the swing.) This important advantage is often sacrificed in the supposed interest of power. will he maintain an upright stance and his arms have the greatest flexibility possible. Only when he is willing to let his head move up and his body follow. 7. WALKING WITH EASE 73 . 5. Easing upward. pressing in and down to brace himself in order to swing. shoulders easing out. The golfer thus compacts his body. 8. Downward pressure. (Fig. However.Playing Golf In golf. 6. (Fig.

74 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Lengthening upward and outward.7.

Pulling down. WALKING WITH EASE 75 .8.

bend your right knee and lift your right leg until your thigh is about parallel with the floor. Move your head and look around the room.) Avoid sinking into the leg on which you are standing (Fig. Lift and lower your right leg several times. Lift your right leg till your thigh is parallel to the floor.Action 4 Moving Legs Exploring Yourself Stand next to a firm waist-level surface.) or lifting the hip of the leg being lifted. 4. let your head ease upward and away from your body and let your body follow that motion. As your body continues upward.) Imagine a line drawn from one hip to the other and keep that line parallel with the floor. do you release it and drop it easily or do you reach at the floor with your foot and tense the muscles in your leg as you lower it? Once again take note of what your head and body have been doing. (Fig. 2. (Fig. 3. Rest one hand on it lightly. Take note of how successful you are at balancing on one leg. Applying the Basic Movement Still stabilizing yourself when you need to. 1. you may use it to balance yourself during this exploration. Now lower your leg down to the floor. Does your right lower leg hang as freely from your knee as it can or is it tense? Do you lift or move your right hip unnecessarily? When you lower your leg.) 76 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig.

1. Lift your leg. MOVING LEGS 77 .

Lift your other leg by bending the knee while letting your head and body 78 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Then gently release that leg to the floor.Now let your raised leg swing forward and back freely from your knee down. Push your lower leg with either hand instead of using your muscles to swing it. first make sure the whole sole of your foot is touching the floor. it would swing like a pendulum until it lost momentum. Before you shift any of your weight onto it. then move your head and body upward as your weight shifts to that leg. It should be free enough so that if someone were to push it lightly.

Let your lower leg swing freely. The next time you repeat lifting one of your legs. Avoid sinking into the hip. allow your foot to come to the floor in front and to the side of the foot that supports you.continue upward. The line of the hips is parallel to the floor. On each step. lift your leg a shorter distance so that finally you will be walking easily. Lifting the hip needlessly. The important 2. Then shift your weight from the back foot to the front by moving your head away from the top of your spine and letting your body follow that upward motion over your foot. 4. then gently release at the hip joint until your foot touches the floor again. MOVING LEGS 79 . 3.

) The problem occurs Downward direction 6. How much effort is necessary to get up to the next step? A typical attitude held is that a person must push downward in order to move up to the next step. 80 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. Upward direction.thing is to discover how to allow your body to go upward and forward over your legs instead of being carried by them like dead weight. People have pre-set attitudes toward almost every physical task they perform. The error occurs when a person doesn't experiment with his attitude—doesn't try out easier ways to do the job. Examine your attitude toward climbing stairs. 5. These attitudes generally involve erroneous judgment of how much effort is required to perform a task or how their bodies must work to do it well. Applications to Daily Life Walking Up and Down Stairs Many students of the Alexander Technique find that walking up or down stairs makes them realize how much less effort is needed when directing their energy upward. So the direction of energy is often downward when a person climbs stairs.

nor do you need to jump from foot to foot.) There is no need to keep the muscles of your knee in constant tension to serve as a brake. and the effort involved in straightening the leg with most of the body weight on it is exhausting. place your foot lightly on the step and gradually straighten your leg as you follow your head upward and forward to move your body above that stair. To climb stairs the Alexander Technique way. Most people place all their weight onto the forward foot before straightening the leg. allowing your head to move upward and your body to follow. In going up an incline. usually because it is never approached consciously. 6. 7. 8. which requires extra work in order to maintain balance and control. Avoid freezing your gaze.) Walking down stairs is often done with equal inefficiency. 7. Easing upward. simply allow your knee to bend forward as you follow your head upward.during the shift of weight after the foot has been lifted to the next stair. When you are walking up or down stairs. (Fig. (Fig. apply the same principles. To move down a staircase. MOVING LEGS 81 . you can still look down at the stairs to see where you are stepping.8. Pulling down.

Very slowly. Leave the ball and toes of your foot on the floor. it moves as though it were on a ratchet. in little jerks. on the outside or evenly across the front of your foot. When your heel comes up. This indicates excess tension and that you are tensing the muscles around your ankle. rest your feet on the floor about five inches apart and pointing forward. Notice whether or not the movement is smooth. where does the pressure on the ball of your foot fall? Is it under your big toe. in the center. You may notice that as you move your ankle. Applying the Basic Movement Begin as before with your feet at least five inches apart and pointing forward in whatever position is most comfort- 82 . See if you are locking your ankle joint at the top of the movement—with heel as high as possible—and at the end of the movement—with foot flat on the floor.Action 5 Heel and Toe Exploring Yourself Sit in a chair. such as a car jack. lift each heel off the floor and put it down again. up and down. one at a time. Look for the same indications of freedom or tension. as is most desirable? Do you have to tense your thigh or calf to lift your heel? Also try slowly lifting your toes off of the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor.

let your head ease upward and follow it with your body. Keep the ball of your foot on the ground and spread your toes. Now as you let your head move upward and away from your body and allow your body to follow. let your toes come back to the floor. Now lift your toes off the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor. then let the remainder of your foot.) In order to begin and complete this movement. but rather to allow it to be its full length and free of tension. 3. The body's motions can now be consistent from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.) Then as you let your heel very gently down to the floor. release your ankle and continue lengthening your bent leg. be unchanged or become tiring. Think of your whole leg getting longer. When you understand how easing your head upward and letting your body follow affects the movement of your ankle and every other part of your body.) Sit comfortably. 1. 2. This does not mean stretching your leg. between your hip socket and your knee and between your ankle and your knee. Avoid contracting the muscles of your thigh by continuing to lengthen your leg as your left heel comes very slowly off the floor as far as it can. it will be harder to move them freely. Then stand up and walk around to see what changes have occurred. (Fig. (Fig. There is no set way to do it. include your legs in your Repeat with your other foot. except your heel. It will either become easier. Let your toes bend slightly up from the floor. If you concentrate solely on your ankles to the exclusion of the rest of your body. follow upward. and let the movement of your ankles fit in with it. (Fig. you are becoming aware of how you move your ankle. you will begin to improve your use of yourself. Lengthen your leg all the way from heel to hip. As you continue. Now see what happens when you repeat this action. But something constructive is happening. HEEL AND TOE 83 . See if you can find the most efficient way (the one involving the least tension) to raise and lower your heel. Remain aware of the relationship between your head and body.

1. Generally. will give you added freedom of motion. the upward direction of your head and body. but there is no need to focus on them except when doing this Action.Applications to Daily Life Freedom in your ankles is essential for efficient and easy walking. 84 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Foot flat on floor pointing forward. now including your legs and feet.

Lift your toes.2. 3. HEEL AND TOE 85 . Lift your heel.

make sure they bend directly above each foot. Notice where you feel any pressure on your hips or legs. you will feel no pressure or strain on your knees. Are you bending at the hips and ankles? Repeat this until you are clear about how you are bending your knees. Your legs should continue to lengthen as your knees bend. Applying the Basic Movement Allow your head to move delicately upward. keeping your body perpendicular to the ground. Notice what if anything you do with your head and your body.Action 6 Knee-Bending Exploring Yourself Stand with your feet a shoulder's width apart (from eight to eighteen inches). Bend both knees until they are directly above your big toe. and allow your body to follow.) A common tendency is to think of the knees as moving downward. As you release the muscles around your knees. Then straighten your legs and return to the standing position. (Fig. let them go forward. Let your feet be as close to parallel as is comfortable. Instead. Include your legs in the easing so that they lengthen and lighten. As your knees bend. When you are successful with this Action. continue to follow your head upward with your body and without tightening your legs. 1. which creates more pressure than is necessary. away from your body. Make sure 86 .

1. KNEE-BENDING 87 . Release knees forward.

1. it is part of the movement 2. 88 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . 2. rather. 3. let your head and body ease upward from your legs and let your knees follow. No need to lean forward. Don't let your old habits interfere with your new way of bending.) Place a mirror at your side to monitor this movement. Applications to Daily Life The simultaneous bending of both knees rarely occurs by itself in everyday activity. release your hip joints so that your body does not tilt backward when your hips lock (Fig. but remains perpendicular to the ground. (Fig.). No need to tilt back. or forward if needless extra effort is used in bending your hips (Fig. Keep your body sense alert so that you can tell if at any point you are tensing your knees.). Rather than pushing your body back up with your legs.

Working at a low counter. 4. knees bent. you will encounter a variation of it in the plié. and do the work with their legs as they should instead of their backs. Easing upward. (Fig. The act of walking is greatly influenced by the amount of flexibility in the leg joints.) 4. that movement is present even though their feet may be positioned differently. Instead of going forward by bending your back and hunching your shoulders (Fig. 5. a freedom most people need. If you're a dancer. stay upright and bend your knees to lower yourself to the level you need. When people bend to pick up things. doing dishes and ironing are examples of such activities.of sitting and standing. The greatest value of this Action is that it frees the hips and knees.). Pulling down. Knee-bending is also the most efficient way of approaching any activity in which you are standing and must lean over to work. 5. KNEE-BENDING 89 . carpentry.

ACTION 7 Standing Up and Sitting Down

Exploring Yourself
In Action 1, you learned how to lean forward without pushing forward. Now get up from a chair, noticing what your body must do in order to stand. When leaning forward in order to stand up, do you use more effort than when you merely lean forward in a chair? No more effort is actually needed. Now sit down from a standing position and notice what happens to the relationship of your head to your body. Do you freeze your head or any part of your body while you sit? Repeat these two Actions, noting everything that is involved in sitting and standing.

Applying the Basic Movement
Standing Up. Sit in a chair of average height. Begin by becoming aware of what you do with your head and your body. Turn your head from side to side and allow it to move up and away from your body. As you become aware of the
upward direction, lean forward by following your head with

your body. Continue following as you lean forward until your buttocks come off the chair. (Fig. 1.) As you lean forward, "upward" becomes diagonal from the chair, not skyward. As soon as your weight is on your feet, you have completed the movement.

1. Following your head upward.


Sit back in the chair and repeat this movement several times, noticing what you do in order to come to your feet. Discover how to do the movement in one flowing motion with the least possible effort. Often people discover that they are giving a little push, a little tightening, just before they leave the chair. There are many people who at first feel that this little push is absolutely necessary but soon discover it isn't when they let their bodies follow their heads. Having made a slight improvement in the flow from sitting to getting your buttocks off the chair, go all the way to standing the next time you do it. "Upward" will continually change in relation to vertical as you fold forward. Notice whether you continue to follow your head or whether you change direction and push yourself up. (Fig. 2.) Beware of trying to swing yourself to your feet. (Fig. 3.) NOTE: When you stand, it is necessary to use your thigh muscles to some extent, so rather than concentrate on your legs, observe what you must do with your head and body to gain the most efficient use of your legs. After you have come to a standing position, your head continues upward and your body continues to follow it. There is no reason to abandon that upward direction and collapse after you have stood up. (Fig. 4.) Sitting Down. In the act of sitting, the advantage of following your head with your body is that you have control of your balance as you sit. An important idea to grasp about sitting down is that you must continue to follow your head upward with your body. If you let all your joints fold as you sit, and direct the energy upward to relieve pressure on the joints instead of tensing to keep from falling, you will not have to work as hard. As you stand in front of a chair, get your head and body going upward. As soon as you feel pressure taken off your legs, release your leg joints and let them fold. Remember to let your hips bend as well so that you lean forward as you approach the chair. (Fig. 5.) If this is confusing, stand up again, noting how far you fold forward as you stand. Sitting down is the same movement in reverse. 92 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE

Beware of pushing. 3. Beware of swinging up.2. STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 93 .

continue easing upward. 94 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Once standing.4.

STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 95 .5. Bending the joints to sit.

when they actually need their legs to go up? (Fig. reach out with your arms or perform any other variation on the movement of standing. 2. And you can do it without the extra effort of forcing or tensing your muscles. straightening the joints and rebalancing the weight on the feet to stand.Applications to Daily Life Of the movements we repeat most often. knees and ankles. They go through a sequence that resembles shifting gears in a 1950 pickup. You will still have the flexibility to twist and turn your head. Most of us complete this action many times a day in an uncountable number of ways and positions. But if you can learn to follow your head with your body.) Without even thinking about it. Whichever way it is done. It is one of the best movements you can do to explore coordination of your whole body. shoot up. one that uses the whole body is the movement from standing to sitting and vice versa. it is all the same basic movement: bending at the hips. 96 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . then folding into the chair to sit. How many people have you seen who push their knees down with their hands in trying to stand. Most people drop themselves into a chair and push themselves out. though. many people divide the movement of standing into steps: lean forward. push down. you can avoid the shifts in direction and stand up in one easy flowing motion.

spread-eagle fashion. directly above your feet. your feet should be a shoulder's width apart and your knees balanced freely.) More realistically. or outward. 1. your knees will tend to fall toward each other.A Short Daily Routine A Time for Rest The experiments you've been doing thus far have been designed to teach you conscious control of yourself. Putting your feet farther apart is helpful. There is one activity you can use daily to reinforce the process of lengthening in movement. 1. Plan to use this space whenever you want to do this activity. Lie down with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Begin by finding a place that is comfortable. See if you can get your knees to fall inward rather than outward. (Fig. relatively quiet and can be used regularly. Lie down. Ideally. The point of it all is to teach you to let your head and body ease upward during any movement. 97 .

For example: Pressure across the back of my hips Tingling in my right knee Pain in my left upper back Sensation along the left side of my neck The floor is cold on my back My breathing moves my stomach The small of my back isn't touching the floor Feeling a little angry at first Cold fingers Felt calmer at the end.) As you lie there. on body maintenance. from "I have too many important things to do. Keep your eyes open. A two-inch-thick pillow under your head is permissible. feet on the floor. Afterward. If any of these positions creates undue pressure. As you learn to direct energy upward and to move with greater freedom. then make minor adjustments. for me to be spending time on myself. you may need up to twenty minutes. short though it may be. In that case you do not need to write your notes but can use your memory instead. though you'll soon be able to rest without one. write down the things you noticed during each session. Let your arms rest easily on the floor at your sides. warmer More than likely you'll notice the same things from day to day. and too many responsibilities. Simply lie there for two to five minutes. What is important here is that you have begun to spend a period every day. so you can compare your awareness from one week to the next. (When you are feeling extremely tense. make a mental note of your body's condition.Let your feet rest parallel to each other on the floor and about two feet away from your buttocks. You may also be able to remember all these sensations. When you have made a change in your belief system. but continue to make note of them each time. Make yourself comfortable on your back. or bend them at the elbows and rest your hands comfortably on your stomach." to 98 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . it will become easier to lie down this way.

Roll your hips up. slowly lower your body until your hips are on the floor again. let your head come to rest in a position where your neck. Lift your right shoulder toward the ceiling. 2. move your head by nodding it. will feel slightly longer. front and back. All the while you are doing this. 1. front and back. The lift continues to the middle of the back. With the back of your head touching the floor at all times. your head continues to move delicately away from your body."time spent on myself is as important as any other time. Then starting at the middle back. 2. do the following series of movements to allow your body to continue lengthening. 3. With your feet firmly on the floor. As you release it back to the floor. Let your shoulders widen and open. If that should happen. however. You don't need to push your body into changing. find that your body does begin to lengthen. let your head move away from your body and let your body lengthen from buttocks to shoulders. several times. seems to have some length. Do the same with your left shoulder. but because of friction with the floor you feel stuck at first. After nodding. You may. After you've taken this thoughtful rest for a few minutes. move it slightly out from your body. chin toward your chest and then back tip from your chest.) 2. the shoulder." you can give yourself the opportunity to improve your performance of any activity. Again. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 99 . lift your hips up from the floor. (Fig.

Any movement can be done by letting your head ease upward and your body follow. (Fig. beginning the movement by easing your head upward. 5.Now that you do not feel stuck to the floor. Bend it and curve it any way you wish. Roll it from side to side a few times. rolling it from side to side. Pay attention to what you do with your head and body as you move your arm. Make sure you move your arm without a jolt or locking any part of it. All of the movements can be effortless. Then slowly and gently move both arms in every which 100 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. Use the release of tension to move your head. 3. as that begins to lengthen your neck. Let your other arm rise the same way. Permit your shoulders to continue easing outward from your body. Notice whether or not you press your head into the floor or lift it off the floor slightly to move your arm. bending your wrist (Fig. Very gently lengthen out through your fingertips. Continue to experiment with moving your head. There is no need to tense any part of your body to start the movement.) Then allow your lower arm to float up. you're ready to experiment with some movements in the lying-down position. following your hand and bending your elbow. Move your head by letting it ease away from your body and. Find a way to move without jerking or setting (tensing) your body. Observe whether any other part of your body tightens or moves as you roll your head.) Finally your upper arm can follow the floating movement and your whole arm will be above your body. Rotating Your Head See how easily you can rotate your head from side to side. Be careful not to increase the pressure of your head against the floor. Moving Your Arms Lift your arms one at a time. roll your head from side to side. First let your hand float from the floor. 4. Try doing fast movements with the least amount of tensing.) Straighten your arm.

Then the lower arm moves.3. 5. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 101 . 4. First move your hand. Move your whole arm.

Bring your leg toward your chest. body and arms. allowing your head to move away from your body as your body follows. finally. continuing the movements of ease. As you let it down gently. Direct the energy up through your bent knee toward the ceiling.way. your hand. Don't interfere with the freedom you've created in your head. (Fig. Whenever you let your arms return to the floor. See what happens when you move your arms quickly and sharply. let your left foot slide along the floor away from your body until it is straightened and fully on the floor. Moving Your Legs Next lift your legs one at a time. Now lift your left foot again and bring your leg toward your chest.) Let your right leg straighten in the same manner.) Your knee will travel through a slight arc. first allow your upper arm to come to the floor. 7. There's no need to push it away from your body. lengthen it toward your elbow. Do this a couple of times with each leg. As your leg moves away from your chest again. (Fig. Then let your lower arm follow and. noticing where you tighten and observing whether or not you tense your head as you move your leg. Lift one foot off the floor by bringing your leg toward your chest. 102 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Then place your foot on the floor again. Return always to the bent-knee position. 6. back and whole 6. The object is to learn to move your legs with the least amount of tightening in your stomach.

Roll to the opposite side in the same manner. The leg is straightened. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 103 . Draw your knees up again. Allow the ease to continue in your head. 8. 7. Let your head move away from your body and let your body move with it. let your head go outward from the top of your spine and permit your body to follow. (Fig. (Fig. To do this. it is essential to let your head continue moving instead of locking in place. Rolling onto Your Side Let your knees fall slowly and easily to one side. 9. If you want to bend over as you come up. doing the same. Remember. let your knees come to the floor. Always let your head and neck be free. Sitting Up To sit up from the lying position. Seated it's easy to stand simply by following your head with your body. As you sit up. 9. let your head begin rolling toward the same side. your head doesn't necessarily have to be the highest part of your body as you stand. one at a time.) Now you should be sitting. roll onto your side. Now straighten up. Use the arm closer to the ceiling to push on the floor in front of your chest. causing your body to roll until you are lying on your side.) Then roll onto your back by moving your head first and letting your whole body follow. neck and torso. (Fig.) As your head continues to move.body. while thinking of your legs lengthening outward through your knees.

Restful Slumber Sometimes we do not get the full benefit of a good night's sleep because we continue so many of our habits of tension while we sleep.8. The best way to sleep is on your back unless you have specific physical problems that prevent this position. 1. use the position of rest described above (Fig. Your knees roll to the floor. is better than a stiff or bouncy one. a few adjustments will 104 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Then let you legs straighten out and rest on the mattress as you continue to let your head move away and your body to follow it! If you must sleep on your side. Having a good soft pillow that forms to your head. Let your head roll to the side. 9.). or no pillow at all. When you first lie down.

11. but rests directly above the other shoulder with your chest and back unconstricted. avoid doing any movement. .). A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 105 . This way your upper shoulder does not curl down. Then lay your top arm on the side of your body.10. that can shock your body with exaggerated muscle action.). 11. This will keep your body from collapsing onto the shoulder that rests on the mattress and will prevent your neck from cramping (Figs. and let it bend at the elbow. collapsing onto your chest (Fig. When rising from the bed in the morning. Cramped. or at least rest the upper part of it on your upper side. make this position more advantageous. 10. such as a sit-up. Bunch your pillow under the side of your head so that your neck is straight as it would be in standing.11. If you slept on your back. Lengthening.

first roll onto your side. among others. tenses muscles in the neck. eliminate the panic from fear and size up the situation that inspires it and do something about it. by releasing tension throughout your body. Emotions are not the result of a conscious decision. Anger. do all your calisthenics after your body is more awake and your heart has adjusted its beat to a moving body. 106 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . wasteful or debilitating emotion will express itself in tensions that you can perceive even before you go haywire. inundated by it. Emotional Control—Worry. This is not the same as trying to suppress anger. When you detect these signals. anger or hostility. which can tie you into knots or make matters worse. Rather. simply give some attention to easing your head upward and allowing your body to follow after it. even before you choke up or explode. The value of control can be seen if we recall for a moment the many unfortunate events in which we and those we love have been hurt by actions stemming from fear. then sit up gently as you ease your head and body up. By this procedure you can. Panic You can apply the Alexander Technique in your daily life so that your emotions do not get out of hand. for example. they arise subconsciously before the conscious mind can act. the new direction of your energy. Anger. for instance. gives you a means of coping with the emotion so that it remains a potential for action but does not interfere with rational decision and any action you may take. Any harmful. If you must do them in the morning. jaw and shoulders.

take careful note of the sketch that applies to you. and it need not impede the smooth course of making the Alexander Technique your own. As a teacher of the Alexander Technique. the problem involved and the answer to it. These people focus on what they won't or 107 . I have encountered many of the handicaps that people create for themselves at the beginning. Following are some of the needless difficulties I have most often observed. The entire purpose of the sketches that follow is to provide a means for understanding and resolving any unnecessary problem you may recognize in yourself. and so we go about inventing them. The Worrier One of the most common tendencies seen in beginners is the "I can't" habit. But perhaps because the Alexander Technique is so easy to do. well and good. The reason may -be that it seems too good to be true: it can't be that simple.Some Helpful Hints You now have the simple program that will make an important change in how you function at every level of your daily life. It may be that you are not troubled in any of the ways described below. It can be eliminated as soon as you become aware of it. If that is the case. we manufacture unnecessary difficulties in the process of learning it. If so. Surely there have got to be complications. But perhaps you may discover one or another obstacle with which you have been needlessly hampering your own progress in acquiring the Technique. These thumbnail portraits have been designed as a series of helpful hints for carrying out the Technique.

pulling my shoulders in. I reasoned. In the process. Don't worry about what you're not doing. This can't be right if it's making me feel good instead of strained and tired. it's not necessary to be in a state of continual regret when you feel you're in error. they give their bodies the instruction to follow their heads. There really is no need to be a "straining housewife. As I stood there. "I'm not doing it! I can't. Thinking about how you should be easing up is like making a plan to do the laundry instead of actually doing it. I experimented with just how hard I needed to hold onto it. In other words. I let my arm lengthen and hold onto the scrub brush very lightly. for example. guilt crept over me. and began to press more lightly on the pot. I continued my experiment until the pot was clean and then I felt actually refreshed.can't do. they immediately ask themselves. As I stood there. feeling very easy. after spending an entire morning teaching the Technique and talking a lot about integrating relaxation into daily activity. Only by thinking during the activity was I able to avoid doing the excess work that made me feel I was doing the job right." 108 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . I began to notice a definite physical attitude that took over whenever I worked in the kitchen or performed other household chores. "Why not practice what you preach?" So I let my head move up and my body follow. Every activity had a different but usually effortful physical attitude attached to it. The Straining Housewife One of my own experiences can best explain what is involved here. Are you pulling down? Then go up. feeling better and better. I was in the kitchen one day. I realized I had been bent over." The idea of the Alexander Technique is to pay attention to what you are doing. While scrubbing away furiously at a burned pot and considering all this. When. Still. "Am I doing it?" They notice that nothing is happening and then they think. After that experience. I suddenly thought. It was still coming clean.

I can force . When I take my hands off. But you can do some constructive thinking that carries over into every activity. the other hand on my shoulder. and pushing my head up. it takes so much energy to stay aware and remember to move 'Up. How can words possibly make them go farther when you reach that limit?" What he has forgotten is that upward is a direction. not hands. I can stretch my neck by putting one hand under my chin.The Thinker She says: "I think and think about my head going up but nothing happens.' I can't go around SOME HELPFUL HINTS 109 . But I can't keep hanging on that way. my head comes back down again. Go past words to experiencing the idea." Obviously. The Manipulator "When I get a tension headache." I tell her: You have not quite understood what I mean by "thinking. but you can always continue to direct your head upward as you continue to move about. not a place. you can't go around doing that and carry on your everyday activities. ." It is not just the process of repeating the words or idea in your head. The Scientist He has deduced: "My head and body can only go so far upward before levitating is the next step. There is a maximum point of lengthening the spine. well. Let it happen. This prevents the tendency to pull it downward. . Direct your head to move upward and your body to follow with awareness. The Under-Achiever The under-achiever says: "Oh. do it with my hands. Thinking in these terms must be an active process that actually releases you from the downward pulls you ordinarily experience.

I go up with my head and let my body follow to reach with my arm in any direction. then. The next step. and it's very hard to do two things at once." Preventing the back-and-down pull is like breaking any other habit. it will be there. Surely I have to do something. to move your head up. You still have to learn how to recognize your own movement without tensing or pulling down. your head can still move up away from your body but of course not toward the ceiling. At first you have to remind yourself to do something different—in this case. But as soon as I move. 110 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . then "up" becomes relative to the movement you're doing. If you do this. The Step-by-Stepper He says: "I ease up every time before I move. I think about that immediate move and forget about easing up. to get forward in a chair." When you're letting your head ease up and your body follow. will be to learn to continue directing the energy upward during the movement. I have things to do. The Freezer He declares: "I know where up is. I think of any action as moving upward with my head and body.thinking about this all the time. I can remember to think about it. That way change will come out of every activity you do and not as a result of something imposed on you. you're already moving. so all you have to do is continue moving and you'll get to where you want to be. but I just look as though I'm being stiff and formal. You won't have to summon the thought to move your head. and when I'm sitting still and not doing anything. Soon this awareness will become an integral part of everything you do." To the step-by-stepper I reply: See if you can ease up in order to make a move rather than easing up before you move. If you bend over. For example. tense some muscles.

That's fine. When you start allowing your head to ease upward and your body to follow while you SOME HELPFUL HINTS 111 . then when you get to the limit. I still feel just as tense after a long day at the office as I always did. What you do is make your head move up as far as possible. you're easing up as soon as you think of it. I feel very uncomfortable and stiff. When you get to the point where you refuse to change. The Practicer She complains: "I go home and practice this Technique every day. hold it. The point of asking you to let your head ease upward and your body to follow is that you can get a little more flexibility and ease. you're trying to learn to use yourself better." First. So I don't turn my head. talking to a friend. taking a shower. you've lost that flexibility. but I don't seem to be making any change. Maybe I'm practicing wrong. and then I feel as though I shouldn't move or I'll lose it. let go of it. I do ten minutes in the morning and ten after dinner. The change you can make yourself is very subtle. probably without awareness. You yourself change from movement to movement as do the requirements of any activity in which you may be engaged. The fact is. Be satisfied with a little so that you notice the smaller changes more. I can really move forward and back in the chair very well. and I don't ever slouch in a chair. lock in and become inflexible. And when do you use yourself most? In all your everyday activities—eating.The Over-Achiever He has the opposite problem from the under-achiever: "When I do what I think is easing up and maintain. stop practicing and start living! In studying the Alexander principle. These are the things you do over and over again. I try to think about "it all the time. you tense up." Whenever you think you're doing something right.

You don't have to think during all activity. 112 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Won't I get flabby and out of shape if I stop exerting as much energy? Then I'll have to exercise twice as much. It's the way you use the energy that can be of help to your body. for example. Where is it again? Sometimes I decide to pull my chin in and push my shoulders back but they never seem to stay. you stand up straighter. chin or anything else. and usually they become a deposit area for flabby fat. whatever you do. The Posture-Maker She says: 'I can't seem to remember where to put my head to get back that floating feeling. body. for example. locked muscle tissue. shoulders. notice and see if you can feel a little more ease. in taking a step. some muscles don't get used at all. Then you're on the right track. It just so happens that when you stop interfering with your body's natural functioning. And should my feet come down heel first or toe first?" There is no right place to put your head. Habitual tension doesn't keep you in shape. Then you're giving yourself a choice you never knew you had before—the choice of acting with or without tension. When you learn to use your body as an integrated whole. then you'll get the maximum use out of all your muscles. it just makes for hard. not of posture and position. Go back to letting your head move upward and away from your body as your body follows." You're making the wrong assumption if you think that simply putting forth energy will keep you in shape. The Weight-Watcher Her reasonable question is: "You say that if I use the Alexander Technique I'll learn how to put less energy into doing everything. Because of unnecessary tension in certain parts of your body. then you'll be putting what you've learned to use. The Alexander principle is a principle of movement. But every once in a while.wash your hands. in any movement you do.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR SARAH BARKER received her master's in fine arts from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. . Texas. editor of Alexander's writings. Barker consulted with Professor Raymond Dart. world-famous anthropologist who discovered australopithecus and who is self-taught in the Alexander Technique. Frank Pierce Jones who conducted major scientific experiments on the Alexander Technique at Tufts University. Louis. among them Ohio University and Prescott College. In preparing this book Ms. Missouri. She has taught the Alexander Technique at several campuses. Barker is now teaching the Alexander Technique at Webster College in St. and Edward Maisel. Ms.

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